Kerry Still Waiting for a Call Back from Russia

by Patrick Brennan

Following Monday night’s nuclear test in North Korea, newly installed secretary of state John Kerry placed calls to get in touch with his counterparts from the key regional powers. That night, according to the State Department, he spoke with the foreign ministers of South Korea, China, and Japan. But one key player didn’t deign to get back to JFK: Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Russia has publicly condemned the test, calling for Pyongyang to halt its nuclear program and abide by the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but they apparently don’t feel like discussing these objections with the U.S.

On Wednesday, one reporter suggested that it seems Kerry has been “frantically trying to call Foreign Minister Lavrov,” but State’s press secretary retorted, “There’s been nothing frantic about it. He reached out to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday [and] made it clear that he’s ready to talk whenever Foreign Minister Lavrov has the time.” 

One reporter pointed out to press Secretary Victoria Nuland on Tuesday, after it was revealed that Kerry hadn’t spoken to Lavrov, that it’s “funny how Foreign Minister Lavrov always seems to be traveling and unavailable when the secretary of state of the United States wants to make an urgent phone call to him.” Nuland explained that “our understanding is he’s traveling in Africa,” but she noted that he had “made a quite strong public statement” condemning the test and calling for North Korea to abandon their illegal nuclear program (in Pretoria, South Africa, no less, an interesting place to condemn a rogue nuclear-testing program).

At the Wednesday briefing, another Russia-related issue arose: As Secretary Kerry is traveling through the Middle East (he was in Jordan yesterday), questions have arisen about Russia’s continued commitment to supply the Syrian government via existing military contracts. It seems a little hard to believe that the Russian foreign minister has not had time over the past two days to return the United State’s chief diplomat’s call, but hey, ensuring the safe delivery of weapons and materiel to a regime under siege by its own people is a tall order, can’t just leave that to the Damascus commercial attaché.

No word on whether our secretary of state, as he’s been known to do to ordinary citizens, his constituents, and the odd Nantucket yacht attendant, has blustered to any Russian receptionists, “Do you know who I am?”

If Secretary Kerry still uses a BlackBerry, too (I do), sometimes it helps to pull the battery out and turn the phone off completely — it’s called a reset . . .

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