Put an evening in Georgetown, near the American capital, at the prestigious Italian restaurant Milan. Have Zalmay Khalilzad, a Republican-sympathetic diplomat and former American representative for the Reconciliation in Afghanistan sitting next to Anatoly Antonov, a hard-liner currently Russian ambassador to Washington but with a resume as a former Deputy Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, both hosted by Dimitri Simes, a naturalized Russian American and president / CEO of the The Center for the National Interest, Already think tank by former president Nixon and now editor of the magazine real politik "The National Interest". Put a glass of water, a glass of white wine and a Peroni for three obviously different people. Above all, put a reporter from the well-known periodical Political sitting at a table right next to him, certainly not by chance but above all with his ears pricked up and the notebook ready.
The conversation immediately became interesting: the Russian diplomat, whom many consider today the most hated resident of Washington DC, agreed with Khalilzad in deeming an agreement necessary to end the war between Ukraine and Russia, except to ask the former colleague what the United States, according to him, would like Russia to give up. There has been no response, but it is already something to know that the Russians expect Washington to have expectations and that they must be heeded. To which, John Negroponte's successor in Iraq replied - we were about to write: diplomatically ... - that Antonov himself should have dinner with the Ukrainian ambassador to ask him, evidently assuming that there were no journalists with long ears around. But above all by not giving in to the temptation to put the wishes of the USA over the head of the Ukrainians. To which, the representative of the Kremlin promptly replied, piqued - immediately after a reference to the "neo-Nazis" that Moscow sees in power in Kiev and the fact that American Jews do not seem scandalized - not to understand President Zelensky's vision on the future of 'Ukraine.
Then, we moved on to talk about relations between Moscow and Washington, with Antonov disappointed for "the fact that we get no respect" why Russia "needs respect" e "would like that [the United States] respected it ".
He repeated the same concept three times: Moscow wants to be treated as an equal, not as a minor power.
But how can relations with the United States be normalized? Antonov could not answer the question: only on insistence, he added that Russia asks "security guarantees", without specifying further.
During the conversation, Antonov repeatedly complained that the United States had canceled diplomatic contacts with Russia. The Russian ambassador recalled the example of the Caribbean crisis of 1962, during which the United States and the Soviet Union maintained contacts and did not interrupt negotiations, despite geopolitical tensions.
Ideas to improve the critical situation came from Antonov himself, who asked his American colleague to activate his contacts in the Biden administration, and from Simes who invited his interlocutors to found a new television channel in Moscow, through which to try to implement this proposal to establish contacts between the two countries.
Of the three, the less talkative Simes is the man to turn on a light, also because he was the organizer of this "dinner with the reporter". On January 25, a little less than a month before the Russian attack on Ukraine, it was he who predicted a quick and devastating victory for the Kremlin forces, but above all he was invited to "stop threats after Russia has started invading Ukraine ”: on the contrary, according to Simes, the Biden administration should have focused on a diplomatic path to end the conflict. In particular, the United States should have "Offer a written guarantee to Russia that NATO will never expand to the former Soviet republics and that the United States will stop all US military assistance to Ukraine in exchange for stopping the advance of the Russian invasion forces". Also, according to Simes, the Biden administration should have "Accept the security agreement proposed by Russia in exchange for some concessions, especially the signing of a US-Russia Treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance", at the end of a war of aggression conducted by the latter, which he recognized "Russia's security interests while safeguarding US interests that allow pathways to resolve all remaining and future conflicts between the two countries and usher in a new era of US-Russia relations defined by peaceful cooperation rather than military confrontation".
In short, at that table sat two men who in one way or another play Moscow's game. We don't know if they digested the dinner after reading their conversation above Political. One thing is certain, the fact that the meeting was - if you pass the term - paparazzi indicates only one thing: Washington knows that its relations with Moscow have been at a minimum for generations and does not want to improve them; conversely, Moscow would not mind whispering something in the ear of the Atlantic power.