US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Washington Passport Agency in Washington, DC, July 12, 2016. (AFP photo)
Kerry is traveling to Russia to seek Moscow’s cooperation in the war
against the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in Syria, even as the two
countries face worsening relations over the conflicts in Syria and
Ukraine as well as NATO’s expansion to Russian borders.
will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday and with
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, US State Department spokesman
Mark Toner said.
The top US diplomat was going to Russia “yet
again” to have “another go” at getting Moscow to accept a process that
could lead to a cessation of hostilities in Syria, Toner said.
are areas with regard to Syria and how to resolve the conflict on which
we agree,” he said. However, he added: “While we have reached those
overarching agreements, we have not seen the practical reality on the
Kerry’s planned trip to Russia has been met with
strong opposition from American military and intelligence officials who
argue that the US and Russia have completely opposite objectives in the
“It isn’t clear why the secretary of state thinks he can
enlist the Russians to support the administration’s goals in Syria,”
said one US intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
ignoring the fact that the Russians and their Syrian allies have made
no distinction between bombing ISIL and killing members of the
[so-called] moderate opposition, including some people that we’ve
trained,” the official said. “Why would we share intelligence and
targeting information with people who’ve been doing that?”
Russians want a settlement that would keep (Syrian President Bashar
al-)Assad or some replacement acceptable to them in power,” said a US
military official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
trip to Moscow comes as US-Russian relations have worsened with
tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, Russian maneuvers near US aircraft
and warships and Russia’s bombardment of US-backed militants in Syria.
Ties between the West and Russia have been in tatters since the Crimean Peninsula rejoined Russia in a referendum in March 2014.
a NATO summit last week in Warsaw, Poland, US President Barack Obama
urged leaders of the Western military alliance to stand firm against
Russia over its “seizure” of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
has lambasted NATO for expanding its presence in the Baltic states near
Russia, saying the US-led alliance is fomenting a Cold-War atmosphere.