February 26, 2013
Talks With Russia in Spotlight as Kerry Visits Berlin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Berlin Tuesday, on the second leg of an 11-day trip that includes stops in Turkey and the Middle East. A major focus of Kerry's visit to Germany was a meeting with his Russian counterpart.
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's visit to Berlin is short but significant. With some recent tensions simmering between the U.S. and Russia, his talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov are being closely watched.
Last week's death of a Russian child, in the house of his adoptive American mother, has added to the strain on bilateral relations. But Susan Stewart of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs believes the two sides will get beyond this uncomfortable issue.
"There is this anti-Americanism present on domestic level, but on the level of the U.S.-Russian relationship, I think on the Russian side, there's an attempt to keep that anti-Americanism from having too much of an impact on the actual foreign policy side of the relationship. That's why they go for the adoptions issue. It grabs people, it makes an impact, but it's not something that has a major effect on the major issues of the relationship, like missile defense or cooperation regarding Afghanistan or the Iran or Syria issues," said Stewart.
Olaf Boehnke of the European Council on Foreign Relations agrees. He said the Kerry and Lavrov meeting likely will lead to a "post-reset phase" of the bilateral relationship - after dealing with the adoption issue, which is still a big story in the Russian media.
"I think the story that we've seen over the recent weeks is for domestic consumption. It still works, this anti-American attitude, which has been revived since [Vladimir] Putin is back in office. It's a winning topic for the Russian press," said Boehnke.
As for Syria, observers don't see any change in either country's policy anytime soon.
"I don't think there's going to be a breakthrough, but I think they'll be a discussion of it," said Stewart. "It's an ongoing issue, and one in which Russia has been involved, because it does have certain interests in Syria. And because some of the attempts at dealing with the situation have gone through the U.N. It will be discussed, but it's unlikely that anything will change in the Russian position.""
From Berlin, Kerry heads on to Paris to discuss Washington's cooperation with France and other countries in an effort to stabilize Mali, the African country plagued by an Islamist insurgency.