Kerry, Peskov Speak of U.S.-Russian Relations
March 27, 2016 (EIRNS)—In the aftermath of Secretary of State John Kerry’s productive discussions with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin last week, both Kerry and President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, have spoken of their respective thinking about the U.S.-Russia relationship.
In an interview aired today on CBS’s "Face the Nation," Kerry emphatically argued for the necessity of U.S.-Russian dialogue on all matters, asserting, in particular, that it is "all to the strategic interest of the United States of America," if Russia can help, as it is helping, to end the war in Syria.
Kerry was scathing, when asked about "criticism" that Putin "has won in Syria" because he’s been able to get a "foothold" in the Middle East. "Frankly, I find that ridiculous," he responded. "Russia has had a foothold there. Russia built the air defense of Syria years ago. Russia—" But they’ve gotten more of a foothold, CBS’s John Dickerson interjected. "Well, more power—have at it," Kerry shot back.
"I see no threat whatsoever to the fact that Russia has some additional foundation in a Syria, where we don’t want a base, where we are not looking for some kind of a long-term presence. If Russia can help stabilize and provide for a peace process that actually ends this war, which is putting existential —"
Interrupted again, "So they’re an ally in Syria?," Kerry said "no," and continued to develop his thought:
"which is putting existential pressure on Europe as well as existential pressure on Jordan, on Lebanon, and creating an environment that threatens Israel—you talk about threats to Israel—that turmoil is a threat to Israel. So if Russia can help us—and it is, right now—; Russia has helped bring about the Iran nuclear agreement. Russia helped get the chemical weapons out of Syria. Russia is now helping with the cessation of hostilities. And if Russia can help us to actually effect this political transition, that is all to the strategic interest of the United States of America."
Dickerson pressed Kerry—in an exchange curiously not included in the official State Department transcript—on how Americans should think about Putin, in light of what he was saying. His reply was that "there are still contradictions," citing Ukraine as a remaining major challenge. In the Moscow meetings,
"we worked on Ukraine. We talked at length about how we could have the full implementation of the the Minsk process, but clearly we still have sanctions in place, because of what Russia chose to do,"
But at the same time, Russia has cooperated with the U.S. on Iran negotiations, and has continued to cooperate on other issues important to us, and has offered to be helpful with respect to Yemen, Libya, and other places, Kerry continued. We live in a world which is not black and white all the time; this is not the same world as the bipolar, East-West Cold War period, he said. We don’t have the luxury of just sitting there, just pretending we’re something ideologically pure and not deal practically with issues.
For his part, Peskov was asked by Russian channel TVC on the prospects for an improvement in U.S.-Russian relations, in an interview aired on March 26 and reported by RT today. He said that the Kremlin does not have any "illusions," but "I think it is possible to say that there have been positive advances. They lie in a mutual atmosphere, because if we compare the atmosphere with what it was a year ago, then of course there is an evident desire to communicate, and there is readiness. At least now the understanding has matured that there is no alternative to dialogue in resolving issues which cannot be delayed."