STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
How, if at all, can the United States work with Russia? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has no shortage of concerns he can raise while visiting Russia's foreign minister and president today. Vladimir Putin supports the government the United States wants to topple in Venezuela. Russia, like most of the world, disagrees with the U.S. withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran. And as a special counsel's report confirmed, Russia worked to support the election of Secretary Pompeo's boss. Vladimir Pozner is host of the program "Pozner," distributed on Russia's state-owned Channel One, and he's on the line.
Welcome back to the program.
VLADIMIR POZNER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: So what does Russia want out of this meeting?
POZNER: I wish I knew, I'll tell you frankly. There's been very, very little in the media here; in fact, almost nothing. So probably, they're not expecting much, otherwise it would probably - it'd have been played up a bit more. Or there's going to be some big surprise, which I frankly doubt.
INSKEEP: Now, there is one comment that I've run across involving Iran. And let's remember. There's a building sense of crisis with Iran after the United States withdrew from a nuclear deal. Russia was part of that deal, is still in the deal. And Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia was quoted saying, "We will try to clarify with Pompeo how the Americans plan to get out of this crisis, which was created by their unilateral decisions." It sounds like not a lot of patience with the U.S. position here.
POZNER: Well, it's a strange position, you should admit. I mean, this decision to suddenly pull out of an agreement that a lot of work was put into, it's somewhat surprising. Let's put it that way. And I think a lot of countries, not just Russia, are somewhat taken aback by this. So, you know, it's not a question of patience. It's a question of, well, why'd you do this? And what do you expect is going to happen now? The other countries aren't pulling out. Russia certainly isn't pulling out. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.
INSKEEP: Russia has sometimes been seen as a somewhat friend of Iran. Is that still Russia's stance?
POZNER: You know, I take out the word friend when we're talking about relations between countries. I think countries think about their interests, first and foremost, whether it's Russia or any other. Probably Russia has interests in Iran; in fact, not probably but certainly.
POZNER: And, you know, support the regime. And I think that the idea was that this agreement is working, perhaps not perfectly but moving in the right direction. And to pull out of it, well, it's kind of a - this one-sided decision is something hard for, I think, the Russian leadership to really accept.
INSKEEP: How devoted is Moscow to supporting Nicolas Maduro, the president in Venezuela that the United States opposes?
POZNER: You know, I think the view here is that, look. The people of Venezuela should make their own decision, and other countries should not get involved. Russia shouldn't be involved. The United States shouldn't be involved. This...
INSKEEP: Oh, but arguably, the people did decide. They voted for a legislature that Maduro then disempowered.
INSKEEP: There was a disputed election for Maduro himself. I mean, we could say that the people have chosen in Venezuela, for someone else.
POZNER: And I totally agree with that. But let them move on, whatever way they want. It shouldn't be the United States that decides, we're going to topple Maduro or, for that matter, Russia to have made that same decision. I think that...
INSKEEP: Ah, have we hit there really on why Russia would support someone like Maduro? They don't want the United States meddling in Russian affairs?
POZNER: I don't think so. I think that Russia has let the Venezuelan people figure out how to deal with Maduro. It's not our business. It's not your business. It's nobody's business. This idea that you can topple another government because you don't like it, for any country, is seen here as being wrong. You don't do that.
INSKEEP: Mr. Pozner, thanks very much - pleasure talking with you.
POZNER: It's my pleasure. Thanks a lot.
INSKEEP: Vladimir Pozner is host of the program "Pozner," which is distributed on Russia's state-owned Channel One. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.