Reprinted from Counterpunch
If John Kerry doesn't win an Oscar for his performance in Moscow on Tuesday, then there's something very wrong with the system.
From the time he touched down at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, to the time he left some 26 hours later, the Secretary of State was as cordial and conciliatory as anytime in recent memory. There was no hectoring, no lecturing, no threats of additional sanctions and no finger-wagging condescension, just pleasant give-and-take on the main issues followed by friendly chit-chat, multiple handshakes, and plenty of smiley photo ops. To say his hosts were surprised by Kerry's behavior is a probably an understatement. After nearly three years of nonstop belligerence and confrontation, the last thing Sergei Lavrov and Vladimir Putin expected was an ingratiating Kerry oozing brotherly love and carrying on like an old buddy from college.
Then of course came the real stunner, the announcement that the US had suddenly changed its mind about toppling Syrian President Bashar al Assad and -- oh by the way -- "we'd love to work with you on that ISIS-thing too." Here's what Kerry said:
"The United States and our partners are not seeking regime change in Syria" (the focus is no longer) "on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad..."
There's no question that when the United States and Russia work together our two countries benefit. Despite our differences we demonstrated that when our countries pull together, progress can be made.
The US is "not seeking regime change in Syria"?
No one saw that one coming. Maybe someone should remind Kerry that the Decider in Chief Obama reiterated the "Assad must go" trope less than two weeks ago. Now all that's changed?
Apparently so. This has got to be the biggest foreign policy somersault in the last two decades and Kerry carried it off without a trace of shame, in fact, he never veered from his cheery script the entire trip. Case in point: In one particularly absurd photo, Kerry is seen grinning ear to ear while high-fiving Lavrov like he just got news that his horse placed first at Churchill Downs. Needless to say, Washington's Skull and Bones diplomats know how to turn on the charm when it suits their purposes. And that's exactly what's driving Kerry's slobbering tone and the "Can't we be friends again" jocularity. Washington wants something, and it's willing to devour a rather sizable crow to get what it wants.
Okay, but were the Russians taken in by Kerry's performance?
Heck no, in fact, they acted exactly as one would expect them to act. They treated Kerry with the utmost respect, listened politely to everything he had to say, nodded, smiled and shook hands at all the appropriate times, and then got back to the business of bombing the holy crap out of the US-backed terrorists operating in Syria. That's the way Moscow conducts business, they never take their eye off the ball. Here's what Putin said immediately after Kerry left:
"I have repeatedly stated and I am ready to stress once again: we will never agree with the idea that a third party, whoever this party is, has the right to impose its will on another country. This does not make any sense and it's a violation of international law."
Sounds pretty inflexible to me. Then he added this tidbit as if to underscore the fact that Obama's meaningless policy reversal will not effect Russian's military offensive in any way, shape or form:
"As soon as we notice the political process has begun, and the Syrian government decides it is time to stop the airstrikes, [we are going to stop] ... The sooner it [the process] starts the better."
In other words, show us you're sincere and maybe we can do business together. But, until then...
So why is Kerry wasting everyone's time with all this glad-handing and kowtowing when the Russians are obviously not taking the bait?