Secretary Kerry Travels to Moscow

Posted by Michael McFaul
May 8, 2013
Secretary Kerry Walks With Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow

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.

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Eric J.
United States
May 8, 2013
@ Amb. McFaul, Regarding Syria; I would have to say that at this point I look upon the results of the Secretary's meeting in Moscow with "guarded optimism" as it sounds like Diplomacy (big D)has just been snatched from the jaws of continuing irrelevance on the ground in Syria. I have a few questions about the bilateral understanding reached, but I'll get to them in a moment. For all concerned, the essential question remains as to whether Assad will now actually go quietly and allow a political transition to take place. Personally, given his statements to the contrary and his willingness to stay in power and destroy Syria untill removed by force, this provides great doubt about the success of any conference leading to a "political solution". For the opposition, having anyone to negotiate a political transition with from the regime, (that doesn't actually have blood on their hands) would seem to be extremely problematic. I agree with the Secretary on the Geneva communique that it "can't just be a piece of paper" folks wave around to create peace with, in the face of the face of tyrany run rabid. So my questions to you on what understandings have been reached with the Russians in these circumstances are as follows; A) Has the Russian government reached the understanding that it is not a matter of "regime change" per se, but that it's actually a matter of "regime replacement therapy" (if I may phrase it thusly for accuracy), that must take place in order to create stability, peace, and change folks can all live with in Syria and the region, allowing refugees to return home and rebuild their lives? B) If the need arises, can the US and NATO along with the "friends of Syria" count on the Russians to be full committed partners in the prevention of genocide, should Assad continue to ingnore the premis of the Geneva communique, insist on being removed by force of arms, and/or engage in further crimes against humanity? C) Obviously US relations with Russia are not monocromatic and soley limited to security issues, but have they accepted the premis that rather than a "multi-polar" world, that a "polar shift" is taking place in favor of enlightened self-governance across the globe? That dictators and tyrants can play no useful part in humanity's future, nor be afforded support, or political safe-haven from this point forward? Thanks for posting your thoughts on the Secretary's trip, I look forward to your response to these questions. Best, EJ
Eric J.
United States
May 17, 2013

@ Amb. McFaul,

 It would appear that the Russian federation has already provided an answer to one of my questions above (b), in the negative...and I offered up a fairly concise and accurate assesment here that may provide some interesting reading for you in regards to Russian advanced weapons systems sales to Syria;

 Today the BBC is quoting the Russian Foreign Minister as follows;


Sergei Lavrov said on Friday he did not understand "why the media is trying to create a sensation out of this".

"We have not hidden that we supply weapons to Syria under signed contracts, without violating any international agreements, or our own legislation.

"And we most importantly supply anti-aircraft system, and it doesn't create any imbalance of power in the region or any kind of advantages in the fight against the opposition."


 Recent statements by Israeli officials would seem to support my analysis that such sales would ""be an absolute "game changing" "red line" for Israel"", and

""would threaten to force a kinetic solution"" as I put it.

  So I'd like to offer Sergei Lavrov my thoughts on the matter in order to illuminate his understanding. And if you choose to pass this on to him and he wonders why this citizen has taken the time to offer him some perspective, and why I've decided to drop a verbal nuke on him in public; You can simply tell him my granddad was one of the leading scientists on the Manhattan Project.

  First of all he needs to understand that it's not the press he needs to worry about, they just report what is newsworthy. Second, that he needs to understand that the Russian Federation not only has a relationship with other governments including the US, but that it also has a relationship with the people governed , and that the Russian Federation's credibility is fast going down the toilet while it seeks to support and defend a regime that is in process of committing genocide upon its population, using every possible means and the weapons the Russian federation has supplied to them.

 Third, in regards to anti ship and anti-air weaponry with opperational ranges in excess of 150 miles, this poses an existential threat to commercial shipping and aircraft of surrounding nations when sold to a regime that is currently targeting its own civilian population. Never mind whether it falls into the hands of hisbollah or not, it is being sold to a regime that is a designated state sponsor of terror that is commiting what can only be described as genocide.

 Thus in fact these sales do represent a violation of international agreements, as they inhibit the international community from taking action to prevent genocide , should diplomacy fail to halt the slaughter. That these sales do in fact support terrorism in a material way, and threaten regional peace.

  Fourth, To place this in larger context, The Russian Federation claims to seek better relations with the US, complains bitterly about certain pices of legistlation in place, yet would take steps to protect genocidal regimes that threaten the peace of nations, and thus represents a violation of good will and trust not just with the American government and its people, but of all nations concerned trying to find lasting peace in the region, and a "political solution" to this crisis.

  If the Russian federation is truly interested in keeping the peace, and committed to seeking and end to this crisis in Syria that allows for it's continued economic and security interests in Syria to be viable in the long term, then I would suggest to Mr. Lavrov that supporting Assad & Co. will be the best way of assuring exactly the opposite of what the Russian Federation claims it seeks to achieve.

  Wheras should the Russian Federation inform Assad that they intended to reposses all the weapons it has sold to him over the years because of the uncivilized manner they are currently being put to use, than such action would garner much respect among nations, and stand to assure a long lasting positive influence among the Syrian population.

  However, the failure to do so will at this time, and be proven over time, to make the Russian Federation complicit as accessory to genocide and acts of terror. The blowback from that will come at a very high price, as I do not believe the Russian people will put up with that from their own government, given their history.

  Far better for Russia to abandon all support of Assad, call for him to step aside and allow a "political transition" to take place, or face physical removal by a united community of nations, and followed up with contributing to international peacekeeping operations and a "Marshall plan" for Syria to rebuild and resolve any threat of terrorist org's gaining foothold in a post-Assad Syria. At this point, I think it's going to take a decade of assistance to help these folks recover from the damage Assad has done to his nation with the weapons Russia has supplied already. I hope they're prepared to pony-up a large portion of the cost, and accept their responsibility as a world power.

  Best Regards,




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