Kerry heads to Russia with Syria, terror on agenda
May 6th, 2013
03:38 PM ET

Kerry heads to Russia with Syria, terror on agenda

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Secretary of State John Kerry departed for Russia on Monday, as the conflict in Syria heads into a new and potentially more dangerous phase, and the Obama administration tries to pin down who used chemical weapons.

Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said Monday there are "strong suspicions... if not yet, let's say, indisputable proof" that sarin gas was used in Syria by opposition forces, rather than by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The U.N. commission later issued a statement saying it "has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict."

Briefing reporters just before Kerry departed Washington for Moscow, a senior State Department official said, "Our understanding has been that the armed opposition does not have such weapons. And so we'll have to re-check our facts. But our initial take on that is that they do not have such things in their arsenal."

But Del Ponte's comments could complicate Kerry's discussions on Syria with the Russian leadership. Moscow's support for al-Assad is waning, but Russian officials have said they still have grave concerns that if al-Assad is toppled, it would mean victory for Islamic extremists.

Kerry's mission in Moscow is to convince Russia to pressure al-Assad and his supporters to accept a political settlement. But the prospects of Moscow's cutting al-Assad loose seem dim.

Syria is just one challenge for Kerry in Russia. As another senior State Department official put it, "This is one of the most complex and comprehensive bilateral relationships the U.S. has," and encompasses difficult issues including Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, anti-terrorism cooperation and trade.

That official said, in spite of the tension over Syria, the Russians "want the trip to go well" and there is more "intensified dialogue" between the two countries than there was a year ago when both Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin were distracted by presidential elections.

In April Obama sent Putin a letter, delivered by his national security adviser, Tom Donilon, which laid out expectations for relations between Moscow and Washington over the coming months, and even years.

Planning is one thing, but an unexpected event - the terrorist bombing in Boston - has brought the countries together in what that State Department official called a "new era" in counterterrorism.

Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, tipped off the FBI to its suspicions about one of the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, back in 2011. The FBI investigated Tsarnaev, interviewing him and family members, but said it found nothing "derogatory" and closed the case.

The FBI has said it asked the Russians for more information about Tsarnaev but its inquiries went unanswered. Tsarnaev visited Russia - the troubled Caucus republics of Dagestan and Chechnya - for six months in 2012, a period that's come under much scrutiny amid questions about Tsarnaev's radicalization. Some U.S. lawmakers have criticized Russia for not providing more information to U.S. authorities.

In Moscow, Secretary Kerry will meet with President Putin at the Kremlin Tuesday and then drive to the suburbs for a meeting and dinner with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The meeting with Putin is key. The Russian president, while insisting he wants more cooperation on fighting terror, has not minced words in accusing the United States of causing a "cooling in relations."

During a recent call-in show with Russian citizens, he complained bitterly about what he perceives as a double standard: "I have always felt outraged when our Western partners, as well as your colleagues from the Western media, referred to our terrorists who committed brutal, bloody, appalling crimes on the territory of our country, as 'insurgents.'"

Later in the show he slammed the Magnitsky Act, recently pass by the U.S. Congress, which prohibits entry into the U.S. by Russian officials thought to be involved in the death of a Russian lawyer.

"It was an excellent opportunity to leave the Cold War behind and move on," Putin said. "But no, they had to think up another anti-Russian law, the Magnitsky Act. The investigation of those events has not even been completed. Why was this done? Just to show off who is the toughest here. What for? It is an imperialist approach to foreign policy."

In Moscow, John Kerry has his work cut out for him.

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. ross232

    To engage in anything violently with Russia would be grave and sickly.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  2. Zhang Lao

    Assad accuses the West and Israel of "terrorism" – but hasn't he been sponsoring terrorists from Abu Masa to Hamas to Hezbollah for YEARS on end? How quickly we forget that. He has the blood of THOUSANDS on his hands, and some people are still advocating for him to go back RULING LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED? What's wrong with the world?

    May 8, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
  3. Flash321

    The Russians are SO helpful. They do not consider Assad's removal a necessary component for peace. This shows that they care more about their precious naval base than they do about the lives of innocent Syrian civilians. They are showing that they have absolutely no morals at all. I wonder that they can dare show their faces at all with all the blood on their hands. It's like Putin thinks he's still in the KGB and we are all peasants that he will tell what to think. Disgusting.

    May 8, 2013 at 6:38 am | Reply
  4. Sdrhuk Setykm

    Who here has ever shot fish in a bucket?

    May 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  5. mike

    Who believes the Russians can believe Kerry?

    May 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Reply
    • Anon

      I know! he's just going to lull them to sleep with pointless, crowded sentences.

      May 8, 2013 at 5:55 am | Reply
  6. SpriteSports

    Hilarious. Why do you hide this article from the news or do you think Amanda deserves more attention. This is ridiculous politics and I am very much worried about it. I believe talking to Putin is rather harmful and damaging affair. This is humiliating. Everybody knows Putin is a monster you want to ask him about his pet monster the Syrian dictator. What a nonsense politics

    May 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      I see future holding many humiliating moments in stock for you! Get used to it boy!

      May 8, 2013 at 12:00 am | Reply
  7. PRO USA

    Wow!! All this hatred towards America. Why don’t you cowards just come attack us then. Let’s see who is stronger!! Just remember what we are capable of.

    May 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply
    • Boombox

      Everyone is perfectly aware of what you people are capable of, that's why everyone hate's America.

      May 8, 2013 at 3:48 am | Reply
      • Teron

        I for one don't "hate" America, I think Americans have done much good for this world, but it honestly should not meddle too far in the Syrian war.

        May 8, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • ross232

      IF Russia attacks the U.S or if the U.S attacks Russia or any of their allies it will be a world war. It has been proven many many times again. NATO can't beat Russia, China, North Korea, India, Indonesia, and Iran. All in one. The man power alone is tramppling. Stand down.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Reply
  8. psychicstalker

    He could have put the body of the dead terrorist that bombed the Boston Marathon on the plane too, dropped it off in Russia leaving them a little parting gift.

    May 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      You were so happy go get them in the first place: oh that unfortunate free-loving Chechens oppressed by evil Russians... Keep them now, after enjoying them for the last 10 years: nobody collects that crap but you and your European allies!
      You should start learning your lessons after all: it is not about some evil Russians, Chinese, Muslims, Christians ... you should blame! These are the things that your own government and your own Military-Industrial complex do that comes around and bites you!

      May 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Reply
      • SpriteSports

        well, I think your Russian dictator share something with the chechens – they are both evil. Sorry to remind you about that

        May 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • Andrey

        Ha: who has created al-Qaeda, invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, who keeps killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan for no reason but to please its brainwashed electorate? Who supports al-Qaeda now in Syria? Who is the Evil Empire now? Bloodthirsty Chechen terrorists are nothing but spoiled kids compared to your politicians and whoever pulls their strings...
        Sorry to remind you about that!

        May 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  9. RLTJ's

    Syria and Iran and others will think thrice before starting a war. Israel is making no mistake about that.

    So, the world will have to go back to watching usual terrorism. Worsening if it gets deeper racist or religious flavors. Why do they hit civilian camp or something like a marathon? Because that is what they are only capable of hitting. They are easy targets.

    That is terror a notch higher actually. Civilians as targets and no longer states and state apparatus.

    May 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Reply
    • SpriteSports

      what a complete nonsense.

      May 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Reply
      • RLTJ's

        yeah. all the dead will agree to that.

        May 7, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
      • RLTJ's

        let me guess. You are American and you sound like stressed to me. You should be. You are in the cross-hairs of terrorism and I am not. But harm intended for you might get me too. Remember that Chinese student at the Boston marathon.

        I only say what I see.

        American is stuck with terrorists. You cant kill all the Arabs. You cant kill all the Muslims. I doubt if they can kill you all, too. So, meaning it is a situation of one or the other, in a dead-lock, set at consuming each other, for the rest of your days. You are in a war of attrition with world terrorism.

        May 7, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  10. RLTJ's

    He has got a lot of holes where trouble could pop-up plugged. The hardest of them would be to plug the hole where the Tsarnaev bros popped out. These types of terrorists do not listen to Putin or to the Chinese or to anybody.

    May 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  11. Rtyetyu Dfsdgj

    Ask Putin if he has ever shot fish in a bucket

    May 7, 2013 at 10:59 am | Reply
    • SpriteSports

      or perhaps has he seen a psychiatrist lately?

      May 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  12. Steve

    I want Russia to go into Syria ahead of the West and take over the country. That would really tee off this loser administration but it would be great for the region. They don't need more of the West in the Middle East. It's a lost cause and the proof of that is right there in Iraq. All of those lost lives and Billions of Dollars wasted for what? They are worse off then when we found them and anyone who died there died for nothing it's pretty sad.

    May 7, 2013 at 10:10 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      You just about said it all, Steve. I couldn't agree more! Thanks for your input.

      May 7, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • xyzthegreat

      Russians will never do that. They have learnt a lesson or two from cold war days. I think America should also stay away. But staying away would mean the rise of Al-Quaeda there. It is head you win tail I lose situation for America. Muslima do not need a cause to hate America.

      May 7, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • RLTJ's

      What for? Einstein would call it insanity.

      May 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • SpriteSports

      my dearest God, you must have lost your mind? eh?

      May 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  13. Andrey

    Whatever evil US government does just keeps coming back to bite them! Imagine how tempting it must be for Russia to let these American fools to go dig themselves even deeper into their do-do! Unfortunately Russian government have to Military-Industrial complex gets it its way again!

    May 7, 2013 at 9:48 am | Reply
  14. helenecha

    Whoever are imperialisms, flying ducks are swans, or they’re big ducks.

    May 7, 2013 at 3:25 am | Reply
  15. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    May 7, 2013 at 1:55 am | Reply
  16. Man dress

    O-BY-THE WAY: I ORIGANALY ASKED THAT THE DEBT CLOCK BE CREATED. PEOPLE CALLED ME THUNDER GOD FOR DECADES JUST AFTER GROWN MEN STARTED CALLING ME SIR 10 YEARS BEFORE I HAD FULL FACIAL HAIR–

    May 6, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Reply
  17. oneleggedchicken

    Damn I feel so powerful like a elemental god thunder, hail and storms all under my power what’s the different what happens I always win.

    May 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  18. Tembisa

    Reblogged this on World Chaos.

    May 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  19. Marine5484

    Now it appears that John Kerry is going to Russia in order to get the green light for the right-wing thugs in Washington to drag this country into Syria's civil war! These war hawks are the biggest problem this country has and that's why we cannot balance the national budget! This is ludicrous!

    May 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • Jomama

      National debt, type in national debt time clock.

      May 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Reply
      • SpriteSports

        is the least problem of recent years

        May 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • Jomama

        Sprit Sports heres another problem people don't realize in Syria.You got 3000 refugees a day crossing into Jordon.THe area is water stressed before this started.They are now using water up 3 times faster than the aquifers can refill.What will happen in a full blown war,3000 turns into 10000.You can ship food water is a lot harder.Its not just in the south its the whole middle east.This is just another piece of chaos to add to all the problems in the area.

        May 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • Jomama

      http://www.usdebtclock.org/

      May 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Reply
    • Ilya

      Remember what Obama told Medvedev about a year ago: I will be more flexible after the elections, please relate this to Vladimir...

      May 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  20. Jdrhkm Feryil

    Why did I just hear on news radio that just the opposite took place e.g. who used the gas in Syria? And Obama wants to kill youtube but refuses to kill that sht rag terrorist tool make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom. WHY IS IT THAT CITIZENS DO NOT TRUST THEIR GOV.?

    May 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Reply

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