Some of Donald Trump’s former campaign advisors are spending this week in Moscow, as questions swirl about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election and the president-elect’s foreign business interests.
Jack Kingston, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, met Monday with American businesspeople in the Russian capital to discuss what changes they might expect in the relationship between the two nations, reported NPR.
Trump said during his campaign that he would reconsider sanctions against Russia that were imposed after its armed intervention in Ukraine, which the Kremlin and foreign companies that do business in Moscow sorely want lifted.
“Trump can look at sanctions,” Kingston told the network during his overseas visit. “They’ve been in place long enough. Has the desired result been reached? He doesn’t have to abide by the Obama foreign policy. That gives him a fresh start.”
Kingston told NPR that he’d met mostly with business leaders in Moscow but not Russian government officials or American diplomats.
He urged business leaders to step up and engage in “soft diplomacy.”
That same day, Trump formally announced he had chosen Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his nominee to oversee U.S. diplomatic relations as secretary of state.
Tillerson and Exxon had reached an agreement on oil exploration in 63.6 million acres of the Russian Arctic, but that deal — worth up to $500 billion — was put on hold in 2014 after sanctions were imposed.
Trump’s nominee says he got to know Russian President Vladimir Putin while serving as chief executive of the world’s largest oil and gas company.
Kingston’s visit coincided with another former Trump advisor’s visit to Moscow.
Carter Page, who previously advised Trump on energy and Russia policy, gave a lecture this week at the headquarters for the state-run Sputnik network on global economic stagnation, security threats and fake news.
Page, who is currently under FBI investigation for alleged ties to Russia that caused him to leave the Trump campaign, blamed the U.S. for “arrogant” policies toward the Kremlin and expressed excitement about upcoming changes.
“One of the big news issues and something people are keeping an eye for, and something that will be very important as we watch the new administration develop, who will be our new secretary of state,” Page said.
Page, who worked for Russian Gazprom in the 1990s, left the Trump campaign in September over reports that he’d met with high-level officials in Moscow — where he condemned the U.S. and its NATO allies for their “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
He said it was “too early to say” whether sanctions would be lifted, but he blamed “false information” for “misunderstandings” about the Russia government.
“A lot of attempts that Putin tries to do, like fighting terrorism, are ignored by international community,” Page said.
He denied this week any formal involvement with the transition team, but he announced Tillerson as Trump’s pick before the president-elect told Americans.
“I’m very personally excited with this one small example, the major example, is Rex Tillerson being the Order of Friendship, the major ventures he worked to create in Black Sea, the list goes on,” Page said. “Actions speak louder than words, there’s certainly a lot of ways we can certainly work together.”