Former US Official Defends Meeting With Russian Foreign Minister

Russia confirmed Lavrov met with former US officials but denied the talks were secret or that a Ukrainian peace plan was discussed

Richard Haas, a former US diplomat and former President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has defended a meeting he held with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that was first reported by NBC News last week.

According to NBC, Hass and two other former US officials and members of the Council on Foreign Relations met with Lavrov in April when he was in New York for a UN Security Council meeting. The report said Lavrov and the former US officials discussed potential diplomatic off-ramps and the fate of Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting took place on April 24 but disputed the idea that they were secret negotiations or that they discussed a potential Ukraine peace plan. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram that the talks were part of regular discussions Russian officials have with political scientists and public figures when leading delegations to the UN.

She said it was the Council on Foreign Relations members who did not want the meeting to be made public. “They are justifiably concerned about the highly toxic atmosphere in the American media and the reaction of the US authorities,” she said.

Haas and other officials who attended the meeting did come under criticism from Russia hawks in the US for engaging with Lavrov, and the Biden administration distanced itself from the talks. In an article on his Substack, Haas said unofficial meetings are important as there is little engagement between the US and Russian governments.

“Such meetings can be valuable opportunities to keep channels of communication open at moments when official interactions are either nonexistent or unproductive and the stakes high. They permit participants to convey their views on a range of subjects while providing an opportunity to get a better idea of the thinking of those associated with other countries and governments,” Haas wrote.

Like Zakharova, Haas also did not characterize the meeting as negotiations. “Critically, such meetings are conversations, not negotiations. Those involved speak for themselves, not for any institution they might be affiliated with, and certainly not for the US government, although relevant government officials are kept informed about what is taking place,” he said.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.