Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday that US-Russian relations had cratered since the 2016 US presidential election, and he disputed the idea that Michael Flynn, the former US national security adviser, could have meaningfully discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the US.
When asked by host George Stephanopoulos whether the US and Russia had entered a new Cold War, Peskov replied: “New Cold War? Well, maybe even worse. Maybe even worse, taking into account actions of the present presidential administration in Washington.”
Though he alluded to actions by the Trump administration, however, Peskov got most specific when describing an action from the Obama administration: the US expelling 35 diplomats in December after concluding that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election. Peskov later described the move as “occupation of Russian diplomatic property” that was “not friendly.”
Putin on Thursday denied any involvement in the US election, and Peskov echoed that view, saying the US’s accusations were “fake news” and “slander.” He did suggest, however, that Putin preferred Trump in the 2016 election, saying Trump seemed “empathetic” toward Russia and expressed interest in getting along with the Kremlin.
Peskov did not deny that Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration, but he argued that any such conversations would not have been meaningful because Flynn was not yet in a position of power.
“Neither Ambassador Kislyak nor General Flynn could have been involved in decision-making,” Peskov said.
Flynn was removed as national security adviser for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his communication with Kislyak during the transition period. US officials cited by The New York Times called conversations between Flynn and Kislyak regarding sanctions “unambiguous and highly inappropriate.”
Both the House and the Senate have open investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian influencers.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that, in exchange for immunity from prosecution, Flynn was willing to be interviewed by the FBI and members of Congress for the investigations, of which Flynn’s contact with Kislyak is expected to be a key focus.
While US-Russian relations may not have reached the lows of the Cuban missile crisis, they have deteriorated in several ways since US intelligence services concluded that Russia meddled in the US election.
Russia recently broke the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, a hallmark agreement between the nuclear superpowers that headed off the outright nuclearization of Europe during the height of the Cold war.
Watch the full interview below:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 31, 2017