On July 7, Ray commented on the Trump-Putin two-hour, “constructive” discussion that had just ended, on the margins of the G20 meeting in Hamburg. The two presidents were accompanied only by Secretary of State Tillerson, Foreign Minister Lavrov, and interpreters.
Much will be learned from what happens with the newly agreed-upon cease-fire scheduled to go into effect in southern Syria on July 9. Putin will be watching very closely to see if, this time, Trump – unlike Obama – is able to make a cease-fire stick. Or whether – like Obama – he (Trump) will let it be sabotaged by Washington’s deep state actors.
The proof is now in the pudding. A lot hangs on the outcome. Former Secretary of State John Kerry and Lavrov saw earlier puddings trod upon by U.S.-supported rebels – “moderate” and immoderate alike – and last September by the U.S. Air Force. It will take a leap of faith on Putin’s part to expect to see the ceasefire hold this time around.
Last fall Lavrov’s foreign ministry spokeswoman actually expressed sympathy for Kerry, giving him an “A” for effort, after then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sent his Air Force to sabotage the cease-fire that Kerry and Lavrov had labored for 11 months to produce.
For his part, Kerry expressed regret – in words reflecting hubris so well becoming the chief envoy of the world’s “only indispensible” country – that he was unable to “align” all the forces at work. With the ceasefire in tatters, on September 29, 2016 Kerry complained:
“Syria is as complicated as anything I’ve ever seen in public life, in the sense that there are probably about six wars or so going on at the same time – Kurd against Kurd, Kurd against Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sunni, Shia, everybody against ISIL, people against Assad, Nusrah. This is as mixed-up sectarian and civil war and strategic and proxies, so it’s very, very difficult to be able to align forces.”
Only in December 2016, in an interview with Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, did Kerry admit that his efforts to deal with the Russians had been thwarted by then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter – as well as all those forces he found so difficult to align.
“Unfortunately we had divisions within our own ranks that made the implementation [of the ceasefire agreement] extremely hard to accomplish,” Kerry said. “But it … could have worked. … The fact is we had an agreement with Russia … a joint cooperative effort.
“Now we had people in our government who were bitterly opposed to doing that,” he said. “I regret that. I think that was a mistake. I think you’d have a different situation there conceivably now if we’d been able to do that.”
The Globe’s Viser described Kerry as frustrated. Indeed, it was a tough way to end nearly 34 years in public office.
The moral of this story: after Friday’s discussions with President Trump, Kremlin eyes will be on Secretary of State Tillerson, watching to see if he has any better luck with Ashton Carter’s successor, James “Mad-Dog” Mattis.