U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Moscow on Wedneday and Thursday is unlikely to yield any breakthrough given the two sides’ huge disagreements on some key issues, experts say.
Seen as an indicator of a joint pursuit of compromise and cooperation by the United States and Russia, and labeled as an “important moment” in bilateral relations, the visit is also not expected to bring about a fundamental thaw in the U.S.-Russian relations, which have plummeted to the lowest level since the Cold War due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
DIVISIONS ON SYRIAN ISSUE
The U.S. State Department has revealed that the Syrian issue would top Kerry’s agenda in Moscow, as the U.S. top diplomat “wants to test whether we can make more progress on this trip.”
The intra-Syrian reconciliation talks were resumed in Geneva on March 14, on the same day when Russian President Vladimir Putin surprisingly announced that Moscow was withdrawing its air force from Syria after an air campaign of over five months in the war-torn country at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A day later, Kerry revealed his plan to visit Russia.
Prior to Kerry’s visit, UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura said that he hoped the talks in Moscow will be “productive,” and give an impetus to the peace talks in Geneva.
Chu Yin, researcher at the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), said that with the evolvement of the situation in Syria, the United States and Russia are approaching each other in a bid to push forward the reconciliation process in Syria.
“There is a tendency that the United States and Russia are seeking compromise and cooperation with each other on the Syrian issue, signaling there is a slim chance that their bilateral ties will ease up,” Chu said.
However, since the two countries still have fundamental conflicts over key issues including the future of al-Assad, they may reach some consensus on the Syrian issue, but not any breakthrough, Chu noted.
IMPASSE IN URAINE CRISIS
Besides the Syrian issue, the Ukraine crisis would be another key issue on Kerry’s agenda.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said in January that France hoped the Western countries would lift their sanctions on Russia this summer. This opinion has been echoed by other officials of European Union (EU) countries, leading to speculation that Kerry may touch upon the issue of removing the sanctions on Russia during his visit.
However, Chu warned against over-optimism on this issue, saying: “The two sides still have obvious disagreements on some fundamental problems, such as the ownership of Crimea.”
Last week, various activities were held across Russia to mark the second anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. Russia reaffirmed that the question of Crimea’s sovereignty is non-negotiable.
Feng Yujun, head of the Russia Research Institute of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that under such circumstances, the U.S.-Russia relationship is unlikely to see substantial improvement as the United States and Europe still want to use the sanctions to pressure Russia.
Chu echoed Feng’s opinion, saying that the Ukraine issue will in no way be solved during Kerry’s visit. At most some measures would be sought to avoid a further deterioration of the current situation, he added.
DISCORDS ON OTHER ISSUES
After a series of terror attacks rocked Brussels, the EU capital, on Tuesday, a U.S. State Department official said that the Belgium attacks will also be discussed by Kerry and Russian officials.
Chu said the United States and Russia have common interests in counter-terrorism cooperation and will maintain communication in this respect.
Feng said that the terror attacks in Brussels showed once again that the counter-terrorism operations carried out by some countries in Syria and Iraq have not won a decisive victory.
He said that although the United States and Russia may keep communication on counter-terrorism, they are unlikely to carry out any substantial cooperation as the two sides still have different understandings with regard to the identification of terrorists and the measures to be taken to fight terrorism. Enditem