Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday blamed former President Barack Obama and the Congress — but not President Trump — for the downward spiral in U.S.-Russia relations.
"We understand that there are forces that simply want to undermine the administration," Lavrov said, according to Russia's state-owned news agency Tass. "This is our standpoint on the sanctions that Congress has been forcing on Donald Trump."
Lavrov was talking about the sanctions bill that overwhelmingly passed Congress, and that Trump signed into law. Tass's reporting that Lavrov believes Congress was aiming that bill "more at Trump than at Russia."
He said Russia believes Trump wants to improve bilateral relations, just as Russia does, and called that a "mutual goal."
Lavrov also pointed a finger at Obama, and said it was he who started the diplomatic battle by sanctioning Moscow.
"I would like to point out it was not us who initiated this exchange of sanctions, but the Obama administration," Lavrov said. "They sought to rupture Russian-U.S. relations and prevent U.S. President Donald Trump from putting forward any constructive proposals."
Lavrov said it was Obama who pressed the idea of American "exceptionalism" while in office, which Russia sees as a form of "arrogance."
"[W]e see some frenzy about 'exceptionalism' which U.S. President Barack Obama constantly referred to, arrogantly pointing to the place, which, in his view, all other countries should take," he said.
The U.S. closed down Russia's consulate in San Francisco and diplomatic offices in Washington and New York, in retaliation for Russia's move to reduce the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia to 455.
Russia cut those staff in retaliation for sanctions that Congress imposed against Russia for its alleged actions in the 2016 elections, as well as its policy in Syria and Ukraine.