Just last week, Foreign Sergey Lavrov quipped when asked about the dismissal of the FBI director, James Comey, threatening to overshadow his talks in Washington.
“Was he fired?” Lavrov asked reporters, sarcastically.
“You’re kidding, you’re kidding,” he exclaimed.
Critics frequently accuse Russian officials of wanting to discredit US politics. But even the Kremlin can’t be blamed for orchestrating the latest Trump controversy.
In fact, it appears as annoyed as the Trump administration itself.
Take our recent phone exchange with a clearly irritated Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman:
CNN: The Washington Post reports that Trump shared secret information with Lavrov….
PESKOV: (interrupting) I’m ready to answer your question. This is not a topic for us, just more nonsense.
CNN: But can you deny that it isn’t true? We aren’t getting a direct answer from…..
PESKOV: (interrupting again) We don’t want to have anything to do with this nonsense. There is nothing to confirm or deny.
The point is that there was no irony, no tongue-in-cheek jibe at the state of US politics. The Kremlin, at least, is taking this seriously.
And that’s because, despite the public statements about having low expectations of the Trump administration, there remains some hope in Moscow that this can still be a transformational relationship.
As a candidate, Trump spoke of “getting along” with Moscow, cooperating in Syria and on international terrorism. He even hinted at recognizing annexed Crimea as part of Russia.
The Kremlin, burdened by US sanctions, still sorely wants those things.
And although some officials may snicker at how Russia has found itself at the center of US politics, with each new controversy the Kremlin’s hopes of a new relationship with Washington are set back.