| by Altynay Junusova

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The Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies has released a new segment of the Ambassadorial Series. In this segment, Jill Dougherty, former CNN foreign affairs correspondent, interviewed Ambassador John Sullivan.

In his interview for the Middlebury’s Ambassadorial Series John Sullivan, US ambassador to Russia for the Trump and Biden administrations, shares his experience and insights into the period of increasingly tense relations between the United States and Russia that culminated in the February 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine. He says he and other top US officials warned Moscow they knew what Russia was planning, but “The Russian response was, ‘You don’t understand. We’re back. We’re not the economic colossus we were when we were the Soviet Union, but our military is certainly back. And whatever’s going to happen with Ukraine, it’s our business, we’ll take care of it’…they lied to our faces.” 

His personal observations of Donald Trump lead Sullivan to conclude that Trump “thought that he could…somehow change or moderate Russian behavior through his relationship with Putin…He just really couldn’t understand that there were bigger issues at play.” 

Does Putin want to start a nuclear war? Sullivan doesn’t think so – “But they will go as close to the edge to leverage that strength that they have, for their own benefit and against us.” Yet, in spite of the deteriorating relationship with Russia, Ambassador Sullivan predicts the US and Russia will have to deal with each other for the foreseeable future: “The size of that Eurasian landmass, that history there, which now includes this war in Ukraine, we need more diplomats and diplomacy, not fewer.” 


The Ambassadorial Series | Ambassador John J. Sullivan