Jen Psaki: about work and about yourself
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki says that she is not very worried about the large number of her own photos, “decorated” in the Russian segment of the Internet with a beard and often accompanied by offensive signatures. In recent weeks, she has become the heroine of numerous online communities, fake accounts, impartial ratings on various Russian sites.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted videos from fragments of one of the State Department's briefings, stating that “The Psaki Show lacks voice-over”, and Dmitry Kiselev, after one of the press secretary’s comments on the conflict in Ukraine, presented his new viewers term. "Psaking - so they say, when a person, without having understood, makes categorical statements, at the same time he confuses the facts and without subsequent apologies," said the TV presenter.
Does Jen Psaki follow her unexpected and negative popularity in runet?
Jen Psaki: Some people asked me about it - I take it as a sign of honor. It's funny that people spend so much time processing my photos in Photoshop and on various attacks on me. But I am in the good company of representatives of the American administration - women representing the American administration - who were victims of the same Russian propaganda machine. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, National Security Advisor Susan Rice - they were also victims of this propaganda. I take it calmly.
Natasha Brain: Do you find this offensive?
DP: I think this raises some questions. Those who are involved in this, or those who are behind these attacks, should think about whether it is worth the world power, which is Russia, to devote attention to personal, false attacks against me and other representatives of the American administration. It seems to me, it is quite clear what is behind this - disagreements about Ukraine and our policy towards Ukraine. The United States believes that the voice of the Ukrainian people should be heard, that the situation should be defused, that Russian troops should leave the border - on this issue there are disagreements with Russia, and it is in recent months that these personal attacks began.
N.M .: Your critics speak about your competence. For example, often during briefings you tell journalists: “I will check it and answer you”, “I will check it with our team” and so on. Can you explain how the preparation for the briefing looks like?
DP: My responsibility as the spokesperson for the US State Department is to accurately reflect the position of the US government, and over the past months I have spent many hours talking about Ukraine, doing interviews about Ukraine. Journalists in the briefing room expect accurate information from us. Sometimes there are emergency messages, information changes - and I want to be sure that I present the facts in undistorted form. This is my approach to what we do in briefings.
N.M .: How free are you as a press secretary? For example, sometimes at briefings you exchange barbs with journalists - is there any indication as to what you can or cannot say from the podium?
DP: Every day I go out there and try to convey what the position of the US government is on a particular foreign policy issue - regardless of whether it is Ukraine or Iran, or the situation in Syria. I convey the position of the Secretary of State on a number of issues. I treat journalists who cover the State Department with great respect - as well as the problems that they face. There are days when, perhaps, we all suffer from lack of sleep or are under the influence of stress - and in the room where the briefing takes place, funny moments happen. But I think that these are moments from which we can enjoy, while discussing serious topics.
N.M .: How hard is this job?
DP: Well, this is an opportunity and a challenge - to be the press secretaries of the US State Department. We are expected to answer about what is happening in any country in this world. We are expected to provide the latest and most accurate information. First of all, it is an honor to accompany the Secretary of State on his trips around the world. I think we visited 50 countries, flew over 400 thousands of miles, and in my stories - a chair in the first row. Much of this was done in partnership with Russia - an agreement on the destruction of chemical weaponsthe negotiations on this issue, which lasted till night, work with the Russians and our other partners on the Six in preparing the interim agreement with Iran. We worked closely on many, many issues - and sometimes it gets lost in the process.
N.M .: What is the overall trajectory of the development of US-Russian relations now? Is it negative or positive?
DP: Indeed, we have serious disagreements about the situation in Ukraine. But in recent days we have seen that there was a contact between President Poroshenko and President Putin, and we believe that after the words and commitments given by President Putin, actions should follow. Let's see what happens in the following days. But the State Secretary believes - and I, of course, share his opinion - that Russia is a wonderful country with a vibrant culture and wonderful people. We were there last spring, and Secretary of State Kerry probably spent more time with his Russian colleague than with anyone else. So we can continue to work on different issues - despite the differences.
NM: So you will not call it a new “cold war”?
DP: In no case.
N.M .: Are there any specific plans for cooperation with Russia in the near future?
DP: Secretary of State Kerry met with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week; he spoke to him on the phone today. They contact quite regularly on a variety of topics - from Ukraine to Syria and the destruction of the remaining 8 percent of the arsenal of chemical weapons. So, regarding the upcoming meetings - on Friday we are heading to London for an event on gender-based violence. In principle, our schedule is determined again every week, but I am sure that in the very near future we will work together on a variety of issues.
N.M .: And yet - did the tension due to the crisis in Ukraine affect cooperation on the issues of Syria, Iran, nuclear disarmament?
DP: Regarding chemical weapons, we work very closely at every stage of the process. There were questions where our opinions diverged with the Russians - for example, on the support they provided to the Syrian regime. We made no secret of this. As for Iran, we continue to work closely with the Russians and other partners in the "six" over the final agreement and try to keep within the framework of the planned date scheduled for July 20. All our negotiators report that close cooperation continues, we have not seen any problems.
N.M .: As for the Middle East peace process, was it worth it to invest in it?
DP: Absolutely. For the Secretary of State, this has been a matter of deep commitment for decades. He, like President Obama, believes that the current situation cannot continue, and that the best way to resolve the conflict for Israelis and Palestinians is two states for two peoples. At weekly meetings with co-workers, he says: “I still have two and a half years left - let's see what happens. It depends on them - whether they want to make difficult decisions. But if they want to make progress, we will readily support them. ” He believes that he is carrying out important preparatory work for the process.
N.M .: The Palestinian government of national unity - is this a positive development of events?
DP: We'll see. As long as they adhere to the principles presented by the Quartet - and for the United States this was central to the question of our relations with the new government and the financial assistance we provide to the Palestinians. But we are closely watching what is happening, and see what this means at the end of this transition period.
NM: Comparing your work in the election campaign of Barack Obama, earlier - the presidential campaign of John Kerry - is it more difficult or easier than the current work in the State Department?
DP: Oh god, this is a difficult question. I was very fortunate to work with some outstanding leaders in the United States, be it President Obama or Secretary of State Kerry, and it really was an honor. But I think it is important for people to know that professionals who work with the public do not necessarily formulate a policy, but they clarify this policy. Our job is to translate, communicate to the public the position of the American government - regardless of whether it is about Americans or the international community, whether it is about democracy all over the world and freedom of speech, about condemning acts of terrorism or violence. We reflect the hard work of thousands of people who work here every day at the State Department, defining our policies.
N.M .: As far as I know, you also practiced swimming professionally?
DP: Yes, that's true. I am short, but I very quickly moved my arms and legs. That was when I studied at the College of William and Mary in Virginia - this is a wonderful liberal arts college. My main specialty was English. In those years I devoted a lot of time to reading, and it was a wonderful experience that, I think, prepared me well for the present period of my life.
N.M .: How did you find yourself in the White House, and later on in the State Department?
DP: I spent a lot of time working with candidates to Congress, the Senate, and eventually several years in the work on the presidential campaign. I worked with Secretary of State Kerry when he was a presidential candidate in 2004, with Obama when he was a candidate, and worked with him for about five years in the White House. And I was very lucky that I was here.
N.M .: Many people in Europe and Russia find the current American policy inoperable, ineffective. Tell me as an insider, is it really so?
DP: It seems to me that there is something in it - at least with regard to the loss of civility. Regarding Congress, when you listen to Secretary of State Kerry, who talks about how, when he was elected to the Senate, there were evenings, dinners with Democrats and Republicans, discussions, and they worked together on bills. Today we see a real inability to do this. And I think there is a real desire to reach a compromise so that something can be done. Maybe this is just what is noticeable to people in Russia and other countries.
N.M .: Is it true that you yourself grew up in a house where parents voted for different political parties?
DP: You conducted a thorough investigation ... I really grew up in a house with a Democratic mother and a Republican father. Now, of course, I am out of politics, being a diplomat at the State Department. But I had to hear different points of view, different opinions, and I think it was very productive for growing up.
N.M .: A personal question - what time do you have to get up to prepare for the daily briefing?
DP: I usually get up at five-half-six in the morning. So for 9: 30, I'm already very tired.