Sergey Kislyak, Russian Envoy, Cultivated Powerful Network in U.S.
Sergey I. Kislyak, the longtime Russian ambassador to the United States, hosted a dazzling dinner in his three-story, beaux-arts mansion four blocks north of the White House to toast Michael A. McFaul just weeks before he took up his post as the U.S. envoy to Russia.
迈克尔·A·麦克福尔(Michael A. McFaul)出使俄罗斯几周前，驻美国多年俄罗斯大使谢尔盖·I·基斯利亚克(Sergey I. Kislyak)在自家宅邸内举办了一场豪华晚宴，为麦克福尔践行，房子位于白宫以北四个街区开外，是一栋布杂艺术风格的三层建筑。
It was, McFaul recalled, an “over-the-top, extraordinary dinner,” including five courses of Russian fusion cuisine for 50 seated guests who shared one main characteristic: They were government officials intimately involved in formulating Russia policy for the Obama administration, including senior figures from the Defense and State departments.
“I admired the fact that he was trying to reach deep into our government to cultivate relations with all kinds of people,” McFaul said of the dinner in late 2011. “I was impressed by the way he went about that kind of socializing, the way he went about entertaining, but always with a political objective.”
Kislyak’s networking success has landed him at the center of a sprawling controversy and made him the most prominent, if politically radioactive, ambassador in Washington. Two advisers to President Donald Trump have run into trouble for not being more candid about contacts with Kislyak: Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign as national security adviser, and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who admitted two previously undisclosed conversations. Kislyak also met during the transition with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.
人脉构建上的成功导致基斯利亚克成为一场日渐扩大的争议的中心，也成为华盛顿最显眼的一位大使，尽管接近他要冒着政治风险。唐纳德·特朗普总统的两名顾问因为没有申明同基斯利亚克的关系而遇到了麻烦：迈克尔·弗林(Michael Flynn)被迫辞去国家安全顾问之职，现在司法部长杰夫·塞申斯(Jeff Sessions)也承认了两次未曾公开的对话。在总统权力交接期间，基斯利亚克还会见了特朗普的女婿和顾问贾里德·库什纳(Jared Kushner)。
A career diplomat raised in the Soviet era, Kislyak, 66, (pronounced kees-LYACK) may seem an unlikely protagonist in such a drama. He has interacted with U.S. officials for decades and been a fixture on the Washington scene for the past nine years, jowly and cordial with an easy smile and fluent if accented English, yet a pugnacity in advocating Russia’s assertive policies.
Invited to think tanks to discuss arms control, he would invariably offer an unapologetic defense of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and assail Americans for what he portrayed as their hypocrisy — then afterward approach a debating partner to suggest dinner.
“Not all of us, myself included, initially appreciated his very tough, in-your-face style,” said Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest and an advocate of closer Russian-American relations, who hosted a dinner at his home for Kislyak after his arrival in Washington and regularly invited him to events at his center. “But we gradually came to develop a grudging respect for him as someone who was really representing the positions of his country.”
“一开始，不是所有人都欣赏他那种非常强硬的、特立独行的风格，包括我在内，”国家利益中心(Center for the National Interest)主席德米特里·K·西姆斯(Dimitri K. Simes)说，他主张建立更密切的俄美关系。基斯利亚克来到华盛顿后，西姆斯在家中举办晚宴为他接风。“但我们渐渐开始不情愿地对他产生了尊重，把他当做真正代表他的国家立场的人。”
Simes introduced Kislyak to Trump in a receiving line last April at a foreign policy speech hosted by his center at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Kislyak was one of four ambassadors who sat in the front row for Trump’s speech at the invitation of the center. Simes noted that Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, was there, but he did not notice whether he and the ambassador spoke at that time.
The Russian Embassy did not respond to an email Thursday, but Kislyak defended engagements with U.S. officials last November, when he was asked during a speech at Stanford University about allegations of Russian meddling in the elections. Kislyak echoed his government’s line that it was not involved in hacking. He said it was natural for diplomats to attend events such as political conventions and foreign policy speeches by candidates.
“It is normal diplomatic work that we have been doing: It is our job to understand, to know people, both on the side of the Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “I personally have been working in the United States for so long that I know almost everybody.”
Even some critics of Russian policy said it was hardly surprising that Kislyak would meet people around Trump. “That was part of his job,” said Steven Pifer, a former ambassador to Ukraine who is now at the Brookings Institution. “I don’t see anything nefarious in that per se, and I don’t think it was out of the box for Senator Sessions to talk with Kislyak.”
An expert on arms control negotiations with a degree from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, Kislyak first served in the Washington embassy from 1985-89 during the late Soviet period. He became the first Russian representative to NATO and was ambassador to Belgium from 1998 to 2003. He returned to Moscow, where he spent five years as a deputy foreign minister.
He was appointed ambassador to Washington in 2008.
The questions about contacts between Trump’s circle and Russian officials have revealed what both sides presumably knew, that U.S. intelligence agencies closely track Kislyak’s movements and tap his phone calls. Russian officials on Thursday expressed anger that their ambassador’s actions were being questioned and that some news reports suggested he might be an intelligence operative.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, delivered an extended diatribe during her weekly briefing against what she called the low professional standards of the U.S. news media.
“I will reveal a military secret to you: Diplomats work, and their work consists of carrying out contacts in the country where they are present,” she said. “This is on record everywhere. If they do not carry out these contacts, do not participate in negotiations, then they are not diplomats.”
Kislyak has told associates that he will leave Washington soon, likely to be replaced by a hard-line general. His name recently surfaced at the United Nations as a candidate for a new post responsible for counterterrorism, diplomats there said. Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, died last month and that post remains vacant.
基斯利亚克已经告诉同事，他很快就会离开华盛顿，他的职务很可能被一个强硬派将领取代。据驻联合国外交官说，他的名字最近在联合国出现，作为一个负责反恐怖主义的新职位的候选人。而俄罗斯驻联合国大使维塔利·I·丘尔金(Vitaly I. Churkin)上个月去世后，该职位仍然空缺。
For Kislyak, Washington is no longer the place it once was. It has become lonely, and he has told associates that he is surprised how people who once sought his company were now trying to stay away.