Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah | Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee had what he described as an animated, spirited and contentious discussion with a government leader in Russia last weekend covering a range of thorny issues, including election meddling, sanctions and the U.S. withdrawal from a Cold War-era arms treaty.
Lee, a Republican, met with Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev during his two-day trip to Moscow.
“He didn’t waste much in getting to some of the grievances that he’s got. He complained almost right off the bat about Russian sanctions,” Lee said.
Kosachev was among three dozen Russian government officials, oligarchs and companies the Trump administration hit with sanctions last year, citing “the Kremlin’s malign agenda” that includes 2016 election meddling, military intervention in Ukraine and ongoing support of the Assad regime in Syria.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Russia, played host to Lee, introducing him to nongovernmental organizations, human rights groups, American businesses, including some with ties to Utah, and government officials. Lee also talked about free trade with Russia’s Audit Chamber Alexei Kudrin, the equivalent to the U.S. treasury secretary.
Lee’s visit came the same week that Russian authorities were cracking down on anti-government protesters. It was Lee’s first trip to Russia.
National Public Radio caught up with Lee and Huntsman at a fair in Moscow’s Gorky Park.
Huntsman, who will step down in October, said it’s important for the Russians to hear from members of Congress.
“There’s always going to be propaganda and disinformation associated with this relationship to some degree,” he told NPR. “But what we’re looking for is real dialogue — people looking at each other across the table, exchanging in frank and honest discussions.”
Lee said he and Kosachev acknowledged that the U.S.-Russian relationship is at …read more
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