Trump adviser, on Moscow visit, dodges questions about U.S. policy on Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A foreign-policy adviser to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump avoided all questions about how the United States should shape its policy toward Russia on a visit to Moscow on Thursday.

Carter Page said at a lecture he gave to students and business figures organized by Moscow’s New Economic School that he did not want to comment on the U.S. election campaign.

Page declined to say whether he was planning to meet anyone from the Kremlin, the Russian government or Foreign Ministry during his visit.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidential election, has made contradictory comments about Russia but made headlines with warm words for President Vladimir Putin.

Putin called Trump “very talented”, fuelling speculation the Kremlin would be pleased to see Trump in the White House, but later rowed back from those comments.

In his lecture on Thursday, Trump’s adviser Page said Western governments had often had a hypocritical focus on democratization, corruption and inequality in the post-Soviet world.

He also accused the United States and its partners of “proactive steps to encourage regime change overseas”.

“This may understandably advance a certain level of insecurity,” Page said.

Relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated sharply under U.S. leader Barack Obama, undermined by disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and fights on the opposing side of the five-year-old Syrian civil war.

Page worked in Russia for U.S. investment bank Merrill Lynch in the mid-2000s and said in an interview with Bloomberg in March that he was an investor in Russian gas producer Gazprom.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Toby Chopra