Wheels up! Secretary Kerry just wrapped up his two-day visit to Moscow, his first to Russia as Secretary of State -- and I wanted to share some of the highlights with you. His trip occurred as part of an intensified set of contacts with senior Russian officials this year leading up to a meeting between President Obama and President Putin on the sidelines of the G-8 meeting in June, to be followed by President Obama’s visit to Russia in September.
During his visit, Secretary Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and, while he acknowledged that there have been some disagreements between our two countries, he noted that on really important issues like Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan there has been a tremendous amount of cooperation. Secretary Kerry also stated our belief that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria -- stability in the region, preventing extremists from creating problems throughout the region -- and the desire to find the common ground. Secretary Kerry and President Putin exchanged views on how to increase trade and investment between our countries. He thanked President Putin for cooperation in dealing with the Boston bombings.
Secretary Kerry then met for several hours with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his delegation. Our dinner hosted by Minister Lavrov continued well past midnight. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford accompanied Secretary Kerry, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov participated on the Russian side to facilitate a serious discussion about Syria, the results of which Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry outlined at their press conference.
The following day, I hosted a discussion between Secretary Kerry and prominent civil society leaders. These representatives of some of Russia’s most prestigious NGOs and think tanks had the chance to describe to Secretary Kerry the increasingly difficult environment in which they operate. The Secretary expressed support for the development of an independent Russian civil society and received some helpful suggestions on how to foster greater engagements between our citizens in the future.
Secretary Kerry then took the time to meet with our embassy staff at Spaso House and the mood was festive, as many had the chance meet our new Secretary for the first time. While in Moscow, the Secretary also had the opportunity to meet with several World War II veterans in the run up to Russia’s Victory Day celebration and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Secretary Kerry’s visit underscored that 2013 has the potential to produce a more productive trajectory in our bilateral relations. His meetings provided the opportunity for both of our governments to remember our wide range of mutual interests, but also prompted creative thinking on how we might deepen our cooperation, even on the hardest issues like Syria. Secretary Kerry’s visit gave new vigor to our diplomatic engagement with Russia. It’s great to have him lead our team!
About the Author: Michael McFaul serves as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
For more information:
- Details of Secretary Kerry's Travel to Russia and Italy, May 6-9
- Photographs: Secretary Kerry in Moscow, May 6-8
- U.S. Embassy Moscow: Website | Facebook | Twitter