Trump Administration expected to open diplomatic channel with Putin aide Surkov
The Trump administration is expected to appoint a new special envoy to communicate directly with Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin once known as the Kremlin’s “grey cardinal,” two European officials told BuzzFeed News.
The job of the new envoy, who has not yet been named, would be to negotiate over the fate of war-torn Ukraine, where a floundering peace deal has yet to bring an end to the three-year conflict, the officials said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would oversee the selection of the envoy, a full-time role that is expected to include a supporting staff.
Read alsoHigh-profile Kremlin official sacked following SurkovLeaks – mediaA U.S. official acknowledged that “there is currently a discussion of the idea,” but said “no final decisions have been made.”
In carrying out the job, the envoy would be required to perform a high-wire act as any U.S. contact with Russian officials has come under intense congressional and media scrutiny following the FBI investigation into alleged contacts between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
Under the Obama administration, such channel was previously maintained by Victoria Nuland, a Senate-confirmed career foreign service officer and prominent Russia hawk who held the title of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs.
The Trump administration’s appointment of a special envoy would not require Senate confirmation.
Read alsoPoroshenko: "U.S. will never recognize Crimea annexation"Surkov, the man at the other side of the table, was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014 for his “status” as presidential aide to Putin during the Ukraine conflict — a punishment he later called a “great honor.”
Often described as the Kremlin’s chief ideologist, he pioneered the term “sovereign democracy,” a doctrine that supports a strong Russian state to stave off internal chaos and foreign sabotage.