The Russian ambassador to the United States called for more Russian-U.S. cooperation during a Nov. 29 visit to the Woodrow Wilson School, asserting that “from a historical standpoint, the fundamental interests of our countries have never clashed.”

Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov addressed some of the most pressing concerns in Russian foreign relations, including nuclear disarmament, Russia’s clashes with Ukraine, and the country’s involvement in Syria.

“American-Russian relations have entered a very difficult phase,” Michael Reynolds, director of the Program in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, said in his introduction to the event. “It is essential that our governments speak to each other more often, not less.”

Antonov offered an optimistic perspective, saying that Russia “is not an enemy” of the United States. “We would like to have good pragmatic relations.”

He commended Princeton for efforts to improve U.S.-Russia relations through workshops and public events. “It is young people who will determine the spirit and substance of the relations between our nations,” he said.

“Nowadays, there is a lot of fake news surrounding Russia and its foreign policy,” Antonov said. He insisted that Russia is dedicated to the efforts of arms control and denuclearization, and called upon the United States to exhibit a similar effort. Prior to serving as the ambassador to the U.S., Antonov served as deputy minister of defense of the Russian Federation, a role he used to promote arms-control negotiations.

“It’s high time for President Putin and President Trump to talk about strategic stability and arms control,” Antonov said.

“We would also like to see our country great,” he added, criticizing the United States for imposing sanctions that could affect Russia’s economic stability. “I like the slogan by Mr. Trump,” he said, eliciting laughter from the standing-room audience in Arthur Lewis Auditorium.

Regarding the altercation with Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait that took place a few days  earlier, Antonov insisted that Russia was acting in defense of its borders. “Ukrainian ships intruded on our borders in a place that had been part of the Russian state before the reunification of Crimea,” he said.

He also addressed Russian involvement in Syria, saying that Russia and the U.S. share the goal of defeating ISIS and combating terrorism in the region, while expressing concern over the countries’ ability to succeed without working together. “We need more cooperation from the U.S. armed forces,” he said.