Friday, May 10, 2013

The Misadventures of Secretary of State John Kerry Continue in Russia

Michael Weiss writes at Foreign Policy about How John Kerry got rolled by Vladimir Putin on a plan to save Syria:
Perhaps because the atmospherics of Kerry's recent visit to Moscow were meant to show that his hosts were under no illusions as to who was the more desperate and bowed party. First, Kerry's motorcade sat in Moscow traffic for a half hour because of a military parade rehearsal for Victory Day, which celebrates the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in World War II. Then Russian President Vladimir Putin kept Kerry waiting for three hours before granting him an audience, upon which he fiddled with his pen and more resembled a man indulging a long-ago scheduled visit from the cultural attaché of Papua New Guinea than participating in an urgent summit with America's top diplomat.

The pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia claimed that Kerry had been "counting on convincing Moscow not to block sanctions against Damascus. It didn't work." Even if false, the framing of the story provides good insight into how the Russian government viewed these talks. And in the end, Kerry gave Putin exactly what he wanted: Washington's assent to a renewed push for negotiations to end the geopolitical catastrophe in Syria.
US Secretary of State Kerry with Russian President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov
US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul
 meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey
 Lavrov in Moscow on May 7, 2013. Credit: State Department

No doubt, the negotiations with Syria will be at least as successful as the talks the Obama administration has been conducting with Iran. After all, neither Iran nor Syria has shown any signs of having the least bit of fear -- let alone regard -- for what the US wants.

This is something that Secretary of State John Kerry has done a fine job of illustrating for us -- and not only in Russia.

Just last week, Kerry was singing the praises of what he saw as an important breakthrough in Israel-Palestinian peace talks
Although there is still a long way to go, Kerry said Tuesday, “I don’t think you can underestimate the significance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Arab Emirates, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and others coming to the table and saying, ‘We are prepared to make peace now in 2013.’ ”
However, Abbas did not see things that way and the Palestinian Arabs again put the kibosh on any hopes of a breakthrough in peace talks, rejecting the idea of significant land swaps and demonstrating a disregard for the input of members of the Arab League.

Before that, Turkey rebuffed Kerry's request that Erdogan delay his visit to Gaza -- telling Kerry
“Only our government decides where and when our prime minister or another Turkish official would go to, and is not in a position to seek permission or acceptance of any authority,” Mr. Erdogan’s deputy prime minister and government spokesman, Bulent Arinc, said in a televised statement. “Because both Mr. Kerry and the world know that Turkey has the power to do whatever it wishes at the desired time.”

...Mr. Arinc said Mr. Kerry’s public advice was “diplomatically objectionable, wrong and incorrect.” He also said Mr. Kerry had done something that “an experienced foreign minister would have never done.”
Effective diplomacy is based on more than just trust and good will -- it is also based on having the wherewithal to follow through on both promises and threats. As Obama continues to deplete not only America's physical  forces but also its apparent willingness to take action on behalf of both itself and its friends, we are likely to read more stories about the misadventures of Secretary of State Kerry.
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