A statement made by Sergei Lavrov within the walls of the State Duma may lead to a scandal within the American leadership. In fact, Russia has shown the whole world that not even Obama’s closet allies, the vice president and the secretary of state, take him seriously. What was the point of Lavrov’s remarks and how do they relate to Russian interests?
After his speech before deputies of the State Duma, Lavrov answered their questions. While speaking about how Obama had placed Russia on the same level as Ebola and the Islamic State, Lavrov said he had talked about this with Secretary of State Kerry:
“I noted the list of threats that President Obama had allowed himself to make since his speech at the U.N. General Assembly. Not that long ago while speaking with John Kerry, I asked him what that was all about. He had said, ‘Don’t pay any attention to it.’ If this is serious, then of course it is sad. He [issued this statement] because at the time, he wanted to discuss the ways we are going to coordinate our approaches to addressing the Iranian nuclear program and the situation on the Korean peninsula. Well, it's undignified for a large and powerful superpower to take a consumer's approach to its partners: ‘When you are needed, please help me; when I wish to punish you, you will obey me.’”
Lavrov’s remarks are absolutely sensational and are a departure from typical diplomatic practice; diplomats rarely allow themselves to divulge what they speak of amongst themselves without having the consent of their confidant, especially when the conversation relates to a subordinate’s comments about his boss — in this case, the secretary of state’s comments on the president. Why did Lavrov go there?
This is primarily Moscow’s response to an information war that is going on between Russia and the United States. The States constantly accuses Russia of engaging in policies that threaten the whole world — starting in September, when Obama had already placed Russia on the same level as Ebola and the Islamic State group several times. The statements of politicians set the tone for the information attack on Russia that is being incessantly waged by the Anglo-Saxon media. Their goal is to change Russia’s position on Ukraine, as in the words of Obama, “Russia has the opportunity to take a different path.”
It is perfectly understood in the Kremlin, as Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, that the United States wishes not to belittle but to subordinate us to its influence. In the unfolding cold war, contacts between leaders of the countries and diplomatic agencies acquire a completely different character — not just an intense standoff, but also an exchange of blows. Lavrov’s remarks are important to understand because one remark in particular hit Moscow.
The last meeting of Lavrov and Kerry occurred on Nov. 8 in Peking, and it was apparently then that the conversation occurred that our head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has referred to. After their conversation, there was the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where Putin and Obama spoke in an informal setting and after a few days saw each other again. It appears, though, that they didn’t even speak at the G-20 summit in Brisbane. In China, the two presidents couldn’t agree on anything, especially with respect to Ukraine.
That Lavrov decided to relate Kerry’s comments means that Moscow understands that there is no chance that Washington will change its position, and that the States will not abandon its policy of isolating Ukraine from Russia. Indeed, on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev and became directly involved in the Ukraine project — and you can expect more harsh statements about Russia. As such, by publicizing Kerry’s remarks Lavrov simultaneously lashed out at Biden, Obama and Kerry.
Besides all that, the blow to the secretary of state was minimal, because the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically tempered his words, illustrating the fact that Moscow does not believe in the sincerity of Kerry’s remarks but believes, rather, that it was an attempt to obtain assistance from Russia on issues of importance to the United States, like Iran and Korea. In other words, Lavrov deliberately softened the blow to Kerry such that Americans could interpret the secretary of state’s remarks as an attempt to “fool the gullible Russians” that was immediately transparent to Moscow.
At the same time, Russia demonstrated to the whole world that no one takes Obama seriously — not even his closest allies; he isn't even a "lame duck," but a decoy. And Moscow placed Obama and Kerry in an uncomfortable position that sowed a small bit of discord in their relationship. This was not Putin’s revenge on Obama. It was likely the consequence of a conclusion reached by Putin after a discussion in China: The American president is not able to repeat what he did last September — that is, avoid escalating this conflict.
Acting under the influence of Russia and his own reluctance to fight, after a conversation with Putin at the last G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Obama pulled the fleet heading to Syria and was able to abandon strikes on Damascus. Now Obama does not want to, and most likely cannot withdraw from Ukraine. This had been previously understood in principle, but until the meeting in Peking, Putin had apparently allowed for the possibility of such a metamorphosis.
Putin was entirely convinced after the discussion in Peking that fundamentally nothing hinges on Obama in the Ukrainian crisis. Joe Biden and John Kerry determine the position of U.S. policy and hence, the most that can be done at the moment is to play off the internal contradictions of the Obama-Kerry-Biden triangle. This is what Moscow is now engaged in (of course, without relying on fundamental change, but in such a big game details are important), and it includes Obama hinting that the Kremlin understands who really runs America.
It must be remembered that for many years Biden was the head of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and was initially assigned to the inexperienced Obama as a guide from the American establishment principally to conduct foreign affairs. And though the presence of Dick Cheney as a mentor to former President George Bush, Jr. (who was as incompetent in foreign affairs) did not interfere in the least with Putin’s attempt in the early years to develop a relationship with the White House, the Obama situation was different.
Obama entered the White House in January 2009 and Secretary of State Clinton engaged Russia in a manner aimed at continuing the policy of containment; an accidental symbol of this became the misidentified “reset button” that instead read “overburdened.” Obama himself tried to play Medvedev, hoping that he would be more compliant than Putin. And Vice President Biden, who because of his position could have built relations with Putin, met him only in March 2011. It thus became clear that nothing good could come of this relationship. Arriving in Moscow, Biden laid it on thick to Medvedev. (“For my entire career, when I sat with a Russian leader, I was sitting with one of the most powerful men in the world, and that’s how we still think of you. I mean that sincerely.”)
Biden later remembered that at the beginning of the meeting, he told Putin: “I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul,” and then, “he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’”
Moreover, according to Gary Kasparov’s account of a meeting at the American Embassy with leaders of the future opposition that would begin in a few months, the vice president openly told them that he had told Putin that it was inadvisable to run for another term: “Russia, in the opinion of the American vice president, had tired of Putin, and this exhaustion would grow and inevitably lead to events analogous to those that occurred in the Arab world.” In other words, Biden blatantly interfered in the internal affairs of Russia by threatening Putin with a coup d’état.
Incidentally, this was Biden’s second to last meeting with the Russian leadership; three months later, Silvio Berlusconi arranged for a three-way meeting with Medvedev and Biden in Rome for the anniversary of the unification of Italy. Given that during Biden’s March visit to Moscow he almost tricked the then-Russian president by promising that the United States would not invade Libya without consulting Russia, and Medvedev gave the order afterwards to abstain from voting on the U.N. Security Council resolution — which the West used to overthrow Gaddafi — the Roman conversation had to have been interesting.
In the course of the Ukrainian crisis, Biden clearly came to the fore and, in fact, became the trustee of Ukraine for the United States. When he arrived in Kiev in the spring, he took his seat at the head of the table with Ukrainian politicians, underscoring post-February Ukraine’s dependence on the States.
The fact that it is Biden and Kerry who — to a large degree — define the foreign policy of the States is completely unsurprising. They, in contrast to Barack Obama, are the real leaders of America and belong to the political elite. For four years, Obama was “made” out of a regional politician into the president of the United States, while Biden is not an entirely typical member of the American WASP elite, having descended from a famous Pennsylvanian Irish-Catholic family, acting as senator for 35 years and running two key committees.
And the secretary of state’s full name is John Forbes Kerry. Yes, the very same name as that of the billionaire Forbes. A graduate of Yale, the 2004 Democratic candidate for president, successor to Biden’s position on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and secretary of state under a weak president, it is people like him that rule the United States even when they do not formally occupy the top positions. It was after Kerry lost to Bush in the presidential elections that the Democrats placed their bets on a completely new face under the slogan of “change,” choosing a mulatto from Chicago for the role of president.
Of course, Obama is well aware of the rules of the American game: The president may advance his own domestic policy ideas and even play on contradictions within the elite, but he must be much more connected to the opinions of the elite on foreign policy, since any attempt to go against them will be a risk of getting a bullet or being impeached — especially when it involves an incompetent president serving during the most serious challenges to the American empire. The personal opinions of the Nobel Prize winner do not play a big role.
So when John Kerry advised Lavrov not to pay any attention to Obama’s words he was, on the one hand, being completely honest; his position is important, not Obama’s. On the other hand, it was clearly a primitive attempt to fool Moscow into helping America on the Iranian and Korean fronts. Why is Kerry doing this? Because our Anglo-Saxon “friends” dreamed this role up for him: Biden, an outspoken enemy of Russia, with Kerry as the “pragmatic partner.”
Is this just a bold and foolish attempt? Of course, but the United States always behaves this way in the face of those that are “happy to be deceived.” And out of habit, they cannot understand that in the fall of 2011 (with Libya) and even in February 2014 (when Obama asked Putin to convince Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the opposition, after which there was a revolution), this was already in the far past, in another geopolitical epoch. Now, any attempt to shake concessions out of Moscow will result in Washington being hurt — as Russia exposes its lies and actively builds counterbalances across the geopolitical spectrum.