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On May 12, 2015, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Sochi, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov. The significance of Kerry’s visit should not be understated – US-Russia relations have once again deteriorated over the past year due to disagreements over the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine. How did the meeting go in light of such fundamental political differences? Aside from the crisis in Ukraine, what else was discussed? Dmitry Danilov, PhD, Head of the Department of European Security at the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC expert, shares his commentary.

On May 12, 2015, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Sochi, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov. The significance of Kerry’s visit should not be understated – US-Russia relations have once again deteriorated over the past year due to disagreements over the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine. How did the meeting go in light of such fundamental political differences? Aside from the crisis in Ukraine, what else was discussed? Dmitry Danilov, PhD, Head of the Department of European Security at the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC expert, shares his commentary.

The context of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and John Kerry is a complicated one, since US-Russia relations have recently deteriorated to an extremely low point. The trajectory of US-Russia relations affects not only bilateral relations, but also the tone of international politics as a whole. This is why, regardless of who initiated the meeting (according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the initiative came from the American side), both parties were interested in holding this meeting.

It’s important to note that this meeting was no routine visit – John Kerry has not been to Moscow for two years. This is a truly important event that was primarily intended to identify the key points of agreement and disagreement, along with a system of coordinates within which US-Russia relations are to develop. The two sides tried to steer US-Russia relations back toward a partnership.

I think the meeting was a success. Virtually all key contemporary international relations issues were discussed, and they were addressed primarily through the prism of US-Russia relations. The agenda was quite positive.

Reuters
Александр Гущин:
К итогам сочинской встречи

The importance of John Kerry’s visit is also confirmed by the fact that he met with both Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin. The Russian side reiterated its commitment and willingness to stabilize relations with the United States and identify opportunities for constructive cooperation in the future, including when it comes to hot spots like Ukraine, Syria, ISIL, Yemen and the Iranian nuclear dossier.

There is currently not enough information about the visit in the media. Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the meeting would focus on bilateral relations. Lately Russia has been stuck in a vicious cycle, including the situation with the Ukrainian crisis – the central issue on the Russian agenda regarding the European dimension of its foreign policy.

Russia is trying to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. This means that the systemic problems of European security must be addressed, since the Ukrainian crisis was the result of this systemic crisis of European security. For this to happen, all third parties must be involved – not just Russia and the EU, but the United States as well.

Russia is trying to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. This means that the systemic problems of European security must be addressed, since the Ukrainian crisis was the result of this systemic crisis of European security.

In this case, the fact that the US did not participate in the stabilization of the Ukrainian crisis in the practical sense, combined with Washington’s tough stance toward Moscow, severely limits Europe’s ability to constructively work with Russia and Ukraine within the scope of the Norman format. After the meeting in Sochi, it has become apparent that the crisis in Ukraine must be stabilized in order to find solutions to the system of European security. It is also obvious that this cannot be done without active participation from the US. This was the central subject of the discussion
during the meeting.

The two sides clearly demonstrated a desire to avoid tactics that could lead to long-term deterioration of US-Russia relations. This means that the assessment of increasing risks will be taken into consideration when it comes to foreign policy decisions. The two sides will seek to align their actions in order to stabilize the situation in Ukraine within the scope of the Minsk Protocol.

spiegel.de
John Kerry laying a wreath at the memorial to
the fallen in the Great Patriotic War was
a moment that played a positive symbolic
role during the visit

Drawing a parallel with the Syrian crisis is quite appropriate here, since we are talking about the inadmissibility of double standards – the need to respond adequately during various situations of crisis. Russia and the US, as third parties that could have a decisive impact on the de-escalation and crisis management, agreed to join efforts in order to reach stabilization during the Syrian crisis. The same thing is happening right now, except this time the goal is to implement the solutions agreed upon in the Minsk Protocol.

Moreover, the US administration mentioned for the first time that US and EU sanctions would be lifted if this process develops positively. The issue of Crimea was not brought up at all, which is a fairly important result.

There is a very clear opportunity for complementarity, cooperation and concerted action between Russia and the US when it comes to the issue of drawing up a positive agenda in the near future.

In turn, Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed that the key to understanding the situation is realizing that the US and Russia play a key role globally in addressing the most important international problems that cannot be resolved without their participation. The Ukrainian crisis also falls under this category of problems.

This is a new attempt to reboot relations, but from the Russian side.

This is a new attempt to reboot relations, but from the Russian side. The US cannot afford to talk about a restart at this point.

John Kerry laying a wreath at the memorial to the fallen in the Great Patriotic War was a moment that played a positive symbolic role during the visit. It demonstrated that America recognizes our contribution to the victory in WWII as an ally. In many ways, this act set the tone of the meeting.

Maria Gurova, Editor, RIAC

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