Saunders: Do you believe that additional sanctions would be helpful?
Peskov: Actually, we don’t believe that sanctions are the best way to solve problems in the international arena. We have witnessed numerous times when sanctions did not create any obstacles for very grave situations, but they were significantly harming the civilian population, the people of the country, and making their living unbearable. So sanctions are not every time a good way or the best way. Diplomacy is preferable, and we have to be wise enough to use the capacity of diplomacy 100 percent. We are hoping for reciprocal understanding from our Iranian partners. It definitely takes a cooperative attitude from our Iranian partners and we do hope that this attitude will be exposed.
Saunders: If I could just ask one final question . . . There are many people in the United States who are concerned about the domestic climate inside Russia. A number of Russian opposition leaders travel frequently to Washington and express their concerns to Congress and the American media. Do you see any opportunity or plans for the Russian government to engage with Russia’s opposition? Also, another big concern in the United States relates to Russia’s NGO law and the restriction of foreign NGOs. Do you see opportunities and even a reason for foreign NGOs to operate in Russia? Do you believe that they contribute to Russian society? Certainly many in the United States and in the West believe that they do.
Peskov: Well, any element of Russian society, of Russian public opinion, of Russian political society, is a permanent concern of Russian leadership, of the Russian government, for those who are involved in Russian politics. We are effective enough to ensure a growing civil society, growing political engagement. Definitely we have those who are considered to be members of the opposition. Some of them are popular enough; some of them are not popular at all. But, as a matter of fact, the dialogue between the Russian government and the opposition cannot be a subject of the bilateral relationship between Moscow and Washington, and in no way can be an issue of [state-to-state] discussion. Frankly speaking, these kinds of concerns that you have mentioned are concerns that we cannot take into account and will not take into account because those are our domestic affairs, our domestic politics. We are a democratic country sharing the same values with the whole world, but we are a country that will solve all the problems, domestic and the like, without any interference from abroad.
Saunders: Thank you very much, Mr. Peskov.
Peskov: It was my pleasure.
Image: Putin and Peskov at a press conference. Wikimedia Commons/Presidential Press and Information Office. CC BY 3.0.