— The weather outside is better than the political climate between our two countries.
62-year-old Teimuraz Ramishvili squinting from the warm spring sun from the window of his Embassy office. Outside — Norway and the West. Here at the Embassy, the laws of mother Russia. From the pocket of the dark suit he retrieves Marlboro Light gently clamps the cigarette between his fingers. So the cat plays with a mouse.
“You know, to destroy the relationship between the two countries is very simple, and restore it is very difficult. In order to restore confidence, you need a lot of time.”
He is the new Ambassador of Russia in Norway says the well-learned English, but with a noticeable accent, which is characteristic for all representatives of the Eastern bloc. Ramishvili was sent to Norway in November 2016, is one of his first interviews. If you believe the Russian foreign Ministry, nothing extraordinary in the decision to replace the former Ambassador Vyacheslav Pavlovsky was not.
Experienced diplomat Teimuraz Ramishvili was born in Tbilisi, married and has one child. His career began in 1979, the Soviet foreign service. Before becoming the Ambassador of Russia in Denmark in 2007, Norway, he knew little.
• Born may 4, 1955 in Moscow. Growing up in Tbilisi, Georgia
• Began career in MESSER in 1979
• Previously was the Ambassador of Russia in South Korea and Denmark
• The building of the Russian Embassy in the Frogner district in Oslo moved in the autumn of last year.
Important: freshly Baked Russian Ambassador in Norway. The idea of placing NATO missiles on Norwegian soil is critical.
Family: Married with a son.
Machine: the Embassy car.
The last cultural event: Concert of the Philharmonic orchestra of Oslo. Loved it.
Favorite word: “Obsession” (obsession). English.
Most now Ramishvili concerned about the missiles. The government, Solberg ponders whether Norway to become part of a missile shield for Western Europe. The Russian Ambassador believes that Norway should consider the relationship with the neighbor to the East.
— Russia and Norway can be different points of view on the missile shield NATO. This is normal. But good neighbors should talk to each other to find a solution that would satisfy both. Russia does not want militarization of the Arctic, he says, and shrugs.
— We tell you now: Before Norway will take some decisions related to missile defense shield, she should know that the new policy means new consequences.
Ramishvili said that Norway should be “prepared for the consequences” if NATO missiles will be placed.
— We will reply. Not only Norway, but all of NATO, — he said.
That means “the answer”, Ramishvili does not want to go. The question is not whether he himself is specially provocative, strongly answers “no”.
Ramishvili says that Norway and Russia in 2017 a big problem: the lack of dialogue.
— Today, Russia is regularly talks with the military-political leadership of the United States, the military leaders, but not with the military leadership of Norway. Sorry.
— Why is this happening?
You need self leadership to ask. I don’t know. Russia is constantly offering Norwegian to communicate, says Ramishvili.
He wants more to talk about the possibility of a less uncertain future, he believes that relations between our two countries in recent years has deteriorated significantly.
— Our countries have a history they can be proud of, they had much collaborated with each other, especially in the North. Until 2013 we have had a close relationship. We always found a solution to their problems. And now, let’s see: trade between Norway and Russia from 2014 to 2016 has been reduced by 70%. To me it is depressing. It should not be.
2014 was a turning point in the history of little Norway and a big bear in the East. Norway and other Western countries imposed sanctions against Russia after the country was accused of interference in the unrest in Ukraine. Russia responded with its restrictive measures against Norwegian salmon. And later two deputies of the Storting was not given a visa to Russia.
The Ambassador shakes her head and says that many in Norway misunderstand almost demonize Russia. Worst of all media, he says. We contribute to the fact that Russia and Putin are beginning to be treated with suspicion, according to Ramishvili, unfortunately, some politicians support it.
— Well, okay, in the sky we have some clouds, but not yet quite dark, he says, and repeats the last two words in the sentence: “Not yet”.
The Ambassador has more trust in the common Norwegian than Norwegian media and Norwegian politicians.
— You know, Norwegians have a lot of common sense. You know.
— Understand that?
— The fact that not all of what is said and written about Russia is true.
— Some say that Norway suffers from phobia towards Russia?
Media suffer. And some politicians too. But, as I have already said, the Norwegians are smart people. Unlike other countries, the population is still not poisoned, he says, and repeats: “Not yet”.
— Because Norway and Russia will always remain neighbors. And we must find solutions together, — said the Ambassador.
The Minister of economy and trade Monica Meland recently visited Russia with official visit, for the last four years, she became the first Norwegian Minister who did this. And it gives Ramishvili reason to look at the future positively. He calls the oil, tourism and security as areas where the interests of Norway and Russia coincide.
Islamist terror is our common enemy, so why Norway and Russia do not cooperate with each other in the field of security? Terrorism is the main threat to world peace. We know that if the US, Europe and Russia will unite, we will win this fight.
Ramishvili looks at his watch, these fairly typical men’s watch on his left hand. Exchanged a few words in Russian with one of the advisors. Rubbing his hands.
— Good. Now we eat. (Okay, now eat).
A waiter in white gloves opens the double doors and takes the Russian a three-course meal consisting of soup, suckling pig and Apple pie. The Ambassador took a seat at the table and points to one of the blonde employees present at the interview, officer.
— Timur. You look like a Norwegian, Let me sit down on the Norwegian side of the table, he jokes.
Timur, who hails from St Petersburg and speaks Norwegian, performs the chief. Ramishvili says that hospitality is a typical Russian trait. It is a pity that the Norwegians know so little about Russian culture and traditions, he said.
In Norway you most of all is Russia military side. But there is so much good, so much art and culture that you don’t see, unfortunately.
The Russians know a lot about Norway?
Russian media write a lot about Norway, one almost exclusively positive. I once read something negative, there wrote that in Norwegian shops, allegedly, not enough salad. Then I called and said, “Here in Norway a lot of salad”, that’s what I said. First, this is a wrong information gave the English newspaper, he said.
— What’s that you’re saying about Russia not true, in your opinion?
— That Russia is a greater threat than terror on the part of Islamists. Russia is carrying out large-scale cyber attacks against Norway. For example.
In an interview Magasinet for Easter Jens Stoltenberg spoke about the problems associated with the policy in relation to Russia, which, according to the Secretary General of NATO, began to assert themselves: “They are trying to restore a system where they can monitor the neighbors, as they did in Georgia and Ukraine. This thinking is related to another time when the superpowers could dominate its neighbors,” said Stoltenberg.
— These words are about a different country — meets Ramishvili and continues:
— Russia is not engaged in “geopolitical engineering”, she has consistently advocated respect for the sovereignty and the right of peoples to decide their own fate. We don’t teach others how to live, we are not imposing anything on anyone, not trying to achieve unilateral advantages.
And Russia is not involved in hacker attacks, according to the Norwegian security service?
— I happened to listen to a lot of statements about it, but the evidence I have never seen. It would be just great if someone actually could show me examples of Russian hacking before we begin to criticize in the media.
And does Russia have at the moment, the spies in Norway?
One of the advisors sitting at the table, smiling sadly. He may have learned that Norwegians are skeptical about the phrase “Russian diplomat”.
You mean men with mustaches and Newspapers with a hole to peek, says the Ambassador.
— I, at least, know nothing about it. We derive information about Norway the most common ways, and send her home.
Porkling, stuffed with buckwheat, making his second victory lap at the table. For dessert, the Ambassador and offers coffee and tea, and brandy, and said that he would like more often to get acquainted with the cultural life of Norway. He misses the ballet, Symphony and Moscow theatres. But in any case, the Ambassador was pleasantly surprised by the Norwegian weather. Here is not as cold as he feared, but the relationship between our two countries worse.
Chief — Vladimir Putin — Ramishvili describes as “a cool guy” (tough guy), whose flair for how to effectively address the issues, he said that Putin understands Scandinavia especially good, because he is a native of St. Petersburg, in Western Russia.
Surveys show that some Norwegians are afraid of Putin, especially after Russia annexed Crimea.
Is your interpretation of the situation in Crimea. Well, in that Russia and Norway do not agree. But let’s talk about it. Let’s explain Norway what happened, instead of throwing accusations in the face through the media, the Ambassador said.
— Russia took Crimea from Ukraine. How can there be other interpretations?
— As a rule, in the case of annexation we are talking about military conflict. Thank God no one was killed when the population of Crimea chose to leave Ukraine. The vast majority in Crimea wanted to become part of Russia. This is what they want today.
Ramishvili doesn’t want to talk about Donald trump, but the Ambassador admits that the relations between Russia and the United States needs to be better. Russian bombing Syria, what Russia, many have criticized, the experienced diplomat explains in the following way:
— We saw what was leading to the so-called revolution during the Arab spring, they destabilized the region. We thought not so much about Assad, but about how to avoid that was destroyed the entire middle East, if we allow the terrorism to spread.
Obviously, Ramishvili — a man who is accustomed to the role. He skillfully leads the conversation, says, supplements, it is not Blendable, faced with time-consuming anecdotes.
Most of all he wants to talk not about Assad or Putin, but about Norway, about how important it is for Russia and Norway once again become good friends.
For starters, we should stop to blame each other.
When you say “we” you actually mean Norway?
— I mean that both sides need to respect our relationship and think of what we say before we say. The neighbors do not need to always look for a negativity against each other.
— Can Norway learn from Russia? Because our nation is small.
— In addition to the cultural life which we have in Russia, Russia is home to more than a hundred ethnic groups. Norway has recently experienced problems that this entails, while Russia has centuries of experience in terms of cultural diversity.
— And what you can learn from us?
— Solidarity between people, the idea of equality between neighbors in the same country. To me it is in Norway very much.
— And the climate?
— It is now becoming softer. And, I hope, not only in terms of the weather, but also in other areas.