Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to again reset relations with the former cold war adversary. Washington has found its interests again aligned with Moscow as Bashar Al-Assad has suffered several setbacks in the Syrian civil war and a reported resumption of his forces using chemical weapons on the battlefield.
His meeting with Mr. Putin was scheduled for later in the afternoon. Mr. Kerry has met frequently with Mr. Lavrov, but it is Mr. Putin who is in charge and determines how much flexibility his foreign minister has when talking to the United States.
“It’s important to try to talk to the senior decision maker,” said the State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters. “We have a lot of business that we could do together if there is interest.”
American officials are hoping that the reversals of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on the battlefield will give Russia an incentive to withdraw support for the leader and cooperate with the United States on ways to encourage a political transition to a post-Assad government.
The two sides are also expected to discuss the apparent decision by the Assad government to start using chlorine gas again, and possibly other chemical agents. Russia and the United States drafted the 2013 agreement that required Syria to get rid of its arsenal of poison gas, and allegations about the use of chlorine bombs suggest that the pact was less successful than the Americans had hoped.
“We made progress in the chemical weapons,” the State Department official said. “There is more to do.”
Also on the agenda will be discussions regarding the ongoing 5+1 Powers nuclear negotiations with Iran. It is expected that Kerry will again raise objections over the recently announced deal to send surface-to-air defensive missles to Iran, which could embolden the Iranian regime and give them cause to withhold concessions. Other areas of potential partnership include North Korea and Islamic State.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained over the course of the last year following Russia’s support for Separatists in Ukraine and the annexing of Crimea. U.S. and United Nations sanctions have crippled Russia’s economy, and these may become a bargaining chip as both sides try to achieve their aims across the full array of topics on discussion.
[New York Times][Photo: Associated Press]