Valdai Club experts on possible new Secretary of State and future of Russia-US relations

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Valdai Club experts on possible new Secretary of State and future of Russia-US relations
Published 16-01-2013, 14:19
John Kerry, US Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate is expected to be nominated as the next State Secretary, replacing Hillary Clinton. Valdai Club experts assess the impact of the possible reshuffle at the top level of the US diplomacy on the future of Russia-US relation.
Cliff Kupchan, Director, Europe and Eurasia, Eurasia Group:

John Kerry will make an excellent Secretary of State. He is an extremely experienced figure in the realm of international affairs and a long served chairman of the international relations committee. 

Regarding Russia, I believe he understands the value of improved relations with Moscow. At the same time, his appointment would not bring significant changes to the US-Russian relationship. He has been a supporter of the Reset, he has been a supporter of START, and we are going to see more of the current Obama administration policy, which I would characterize as maintaining its functional, cooperative relationship with Moscow, while not siding away from disagreements.

However, I do not expect breakthroughs in the relations, regardless of who is the Secretary of State. The major issues facing the relationship: national missile defense, tactical nuclear weapons, and upgrading business ties – all face major obstacles. On the other hand, while there are small changes in Russian position on Syria, I think, it’s going to be a while, if ever, before there is a sufficient change.

Julian Schuster, Provost and Senior Vice President, Webster University: 

The re-election of President Obama gave a new chance to relations between Russia and the USA. The statements which emerged from the camp of another contender unequivocally echoed the rhetoric of the Cold War and attempted to reframe the context of the relationship from collaboration and working together to negotiations from the standpoint of force and righteousness. 

All in all, one can cynically note that the competing camp just sharpened the focus of Secretary Clinton's approach and boldly explicated the words buried between the lines of official statements. However, the eventual appointment of Senator Kerry to the position of Secretary of State could prove beneficial to Russian-American relations on many levels. The most obvious ones, such as the Iran nuclear crisis, the conflict in Syria, or missile-defense deployment in Eastern Europe, will not be the most important. 

The true impact of the new Obama administration and Kerry's leadership will be in setting up a new, profoundly different framework and foundation of the relationship between the two countries. This new foundation should take into account legitimate long-term interests of all participants and abandon the zero-sum approach of the Cold War. Senator Kerry's background and experience may prove invaluable in making a first step toward achieving that goal.


Valdai Club


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