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The American Secretary of State had just traveled to Moscow last month, and Lavrov’s trip indicates that there are serious efforts underway to maintain and enhance the bilateral dialogue between the two Great Powers. The US and Russia have plenty that they disagree on all across the world—be it in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, or the Koreas – but there’s also a lot that they could cooperate on if the right conditions and political will be present. For example, both sides are engaged in anti-terrorist operations in the Mideast, which could provide a basis for future collaboration in line with the model first proposed by President Putin during his September 2015 speech at the UN General Assembly.
Up until now, however, the US has steadfastly refused to join hands with Russia in fighting Daesh, though a historic breakthrough might be possible during a future meeting between the Russian and American Presidents. It’s up to each leader’s top diplomats to arrange this summit, and that was one of the reasons behind why Lavrov traveled to meet with Tillerson in DC. Before departing on his trip, Russia’s Foreign Minister stressed that any prospective meeting between Presidents Putin and Trump would have to “yield concrete results” and “[be] important not only for the sake of shaking hands and hearing what they think about their relations with each other and international problems.” Of all the disagreements present along the wide geostrategic spectrum of Russian-American relations, the one which provides the best possible hope for paving the way for a tangible rapprochement between the two is Syria, and it’s here where Moscow’s “de-escalation” zone proposal might come into play.
The US has thus far been lukewarm towards Russia’s initiative, but it also hasn’t dismissed it outright, so it can be inferred that some progress has already been made through diplomatic back channels in getting Washington to respect Moscow’s peacemaking moves, or at least for the time being. The challenge ahead is to sustain these gains and transform them into the basis for practical cooperation between Russia and the US, preferably as part of a united anti-terrorist coalition against Daesh. While it might be premature to speculate that far into the future, Lavrov’s visit to Washington is nevertheless a timely moment to discuss the current direction of Russian-American relations.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Joseph Davis, an independent blogger and researcher based in Memphis, TN who the site jdavismemphis.com
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