By: Zack Duvall
Sergey Kislyak is a name that has risen to somewhat of an infamous standing due to his name being brought up in both of the two recent controversies to affect the administration amid ties to a Russian government that interfered in America’s election.
Kislyak is the 67-year old Ambassador for the Russian government to the U.S. and has been in that position since just after the conflict that Russia was involved in against the Georgian government over the independence of South Ossetia in late 2008. However, he has been employed by the Russian government as far back as when the Soviet Union was still in existence, starting his career at the Russian Foreign Ministry in 1977.
Experts and analysts familiar with the U.S.-Russia relationship and the key diplomats who represent both nations say that Kislyak has a reputation for being very good at his job and networking with leaders from both major U.S. parties regardless of which one is in power at the time.
“Kislyak has always done a good job making sure that he’s kind of talking to everyone, so when the Democrats are in power he talks to Democrats, but he also talks to Republicans.” Matthew Rojansky, a Soviet and Russia scholar who is also the director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said of Kislyak when asked about the Ambassador and his communication with senior U.S. officials and congressional members.
Rojansky further went on to talk of how Kislyak is known by colleagues to travel the country, when he is in America, to meet with college students to better understand the changing trends in the American electorate, knowledge that makes him a very valuable asset during election season.
“He travels a lot and gives lectures to students and he talks to the students so he’s clearly getting the sort of zeitgeist of what’s going on in American society, which you know during the election season is very important” Rojansky said.
One of the talks that Kislyak has held at American colleges, came just days after the 2016 election with him speaking at Stanford University. The roughly 90-minute speech by Kislyak covered the current U.S.-Russia diplomatic relationship as being the lowest that it has been since the Cold War, although he stopped short of saying current tensions are anywhere near as potentially dangerous as they were during the Cold War.
“I’m frequently asked ‘are we back in the Cold War?’ And in my view, no.” Ambassador Kislyak told Stanford students and event attendees about the famous Russian-American diplomatic question. He went on to highlight how the current “difficulties” between the two countries are not the same as the “ideological divides” that existed between the two countries during the height of the Cold War.
“There are no ideological divides, but difficulties still exist. And they prove to be significantly more difficult than I would have expected when I came here after the events in 2008 with the conflict in Georgia.” Kislyak said of the current diplomatic situation between the U.S. and Russia.
He went on to say that one of the main reasons that the relationship between Russia and America is simply that Russia is now a “market economy” and a “developing democracy”. Where as the Cold War Soviet Union was a struggling communist dictatorship.
An influential figure in the Russian government, Kislyak was, not long after his start at the Russian Ministry in 1977, appointed to represent the Soviet Union, and later Russia, at the United Nations and NATO organization according to his biography on the Russian Embassy website.
Ambassador Kislyak is also very vocal in his belief that America and Russia will continue to improve on relations through the “commonality of challenges” in regards to terrorism and climate change. These are two areas, Kislyak says that the two nations can work on together for the safety and security of both countries and the world as a whole