News / USA

Talks With Russia in Spotlight as Kerry Visits Berlin

Michael Scaturro
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.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Qatar crown prince, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, start their meeting at the Prince's Sea Palace residence in Doha, Qatar, March 5, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is met by Qatari Chief of Protocol Abdullah Fakhroo and Qatari Ambassador to the U.S. Mohamed al-Rumaihi at Doha International Airport, March 5, 2013.
  • The red carpet is rolled up after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boarded his plane to leave Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on his way to the final destination of Qatar, March 5, 2013.
  • Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan invites U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pose with him for a photograph before their dinner meeting at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 4, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 3, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, March 3, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends an Antikabir Wreath Laying ceremony at the Tomb of Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, March 2, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a news conference with Syrian National Coalition Chairman Mouaz al-Khatib and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi at Villa Madama in Rome, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • A peace activist protests at the end of statements given by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib at Villa Madama in Rome, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gestures while standing with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 26, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak to the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Feb. 26, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with the children of U.S. embassy staff in Berlin, Feb. 26, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London, Feb. 25, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits with the traveling media aboard a plane en route to London on his inaugural trip as secretary, Feb. 24, 2013.

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.

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