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Republican Senators Celebrate Old-Fashioned All-American 4th Of July In Moscow
As American as apple borscht
A whole bunch of Republican US senators (and one member of the House) spent Independence Day in Moscow so they could tell Russia that America dearly loves Russia and won't lecture it too much about little things like hacking the 2016 election (or maybe the 2018 one!) or invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, because after all, isn't peace a beautiful thing? No Democrats went along on the trip, because as Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov explained, "Since the Democrats actively accuse the Republicans of selling out to the Russians, it would naturally be strange if Democrats here were part of the group."
The Republican delegation to Moscow did at least manage to spend July 4 at the US ambassador's residence, where they sang the Star Spangled banner and insisted they only want what's good for
Donald Trumpthe American and Russian people. Sen. Richard Shelby insisted to NPR that the delegation was all kinds of tough in its insistence that Russia had been a little bit naughty in the last few years:
We didn't come here to say, what you've been doing is great, and we're going to look the other way. We came here to talk candidly and honestly. The Russians can earn a better relationship with the U.S. if they want to.
That sound bite was considerably tougher than the tongue bath Shelby gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when the delegation met with him Tuesday, telling him, "We are competitors but don't necessarily need to be adversaries." Shelby was even more conciliatory when the group went to visit the Duma, telling speaker Vyacheslav Volodin,
I'm not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth [...] I'm saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.
Sure would be nice if congressional Republicans could be that polite to Democrats, huh? Several members of the delegation insisted that during their closed-door meetings with Russian officials, they'd been super-tough on the issues of Russian interference in US elections and suchlike. Senator John Kennedy said he was just shoe-poundin' mad at the Rooskies, describing the meetings as "damn frank, very, very, very frank, no holds barred."
"I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our elections this year," Kennedy said. "I asked them to exit Ukraine and allow Ukraine to self-determine. I asked for the same thing in Crimea. I asked for their help in bringing peace to Syria. And I asked them not to allow Iran to gain a foothold in Syria."
Duma member Nikonov seemed to have a different recollection of the meeting, saying the Americans were just great big pussycats: He's met with plenty of Americans in the past, and said this meeting, by contrast, "was one of the easiest ones in my life." But what about all that tough talk on election messing, huh?
The question of election interference, he said, was resolved quickly because "the question was raised in a general form."
"One shouldn't interfere in elections — well, we don't interfere," Nikonov said.
And on that, Donald Trump agrees -- the Russians say they don't interfere, so why would anyone think otherwise unless they want to call the Russians liars or something. And yes, while the GOP delegation was slobbering all over our Russian pals, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a progress report on its investigation late Tuesday, confirming the findings of the Intelligence Community that Russia had taken multiple measures aimed at swinging the election to Donald Trump, and that Vladimir Putin was in on it. Yep, that report included the Republicans on the committee, too.
The Senators and one representative had hoped to meet with Putin himself, but instead, the Russian president completely blew them off:
While some members of the U.S. delegation speculated before the trip that they might see Putin himself, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the president had no time for the visitors.
"We are delighted by the fact that this visit is taking place and that intensive contacts are taking place in Moscow now," Peskov said.
That's Diplomat Talk for "Nice of you to drop by, enjoy the lobby." Unrequited love's a bore.