How far-reaching that cooperation might prove to be is an open question. A State Department official praised Russia’s help with “logistics” in arranging for FBI agents investigating the Boston bombings to make inquiries here. But when it comes to the substance of intelligence sharing, both sides remain wary.
On Syria, likewise, Kerry’s visit ended with a pledge by the United States and Russia to sponsor a new peace conference, within the month. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said American and Russian intelligence agencies will coordinate their efforts in trying to determine whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria — and by whom.
But even as the countries seem to be trying to feel their way toward a resolution of the Syrian crisis — the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, took part in the Moscow talks — they still fundamentally disagree on the legitimacy of the Syrian government.
Still, Kerry’s visit here Tuesday and Wednesday, which included meetings with Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, was well-received by his hosts. Russia and the United States have certain common interests on which the two countries can and should work together, Lavrov said afterwards — including not only anti-terrorism efforts, but initiatives against drug trafficking and organized crime.
“Secretary Kerry’s visit underscored that 2013 has the potential to produce a more productive trajectory in our bilateral relations,” U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul wrote on his blog.
For the past 17 months, ever since Putin began his presidential election campaign, he has been casting the United States as a patron of disorder in Russia and a threat to Russian security. Relations with Washington steadily deteriorated, as each country banned a handful of officials from the other, American adoptions of Russian orphans were barred and American aid across a spectrum of causes was rejected. Russia repeatedly blocked efforts by the United States and other countries to commit the United Nations to resolving the conflict in Syria.
Both sides trace the marked change in tone to April 15, when Tom Donilon, President Obama’s security adviser, handed a letter from his boss to Putin, suggesting ways to put the relationship back on course. The Kremlin quickly promised to reply in kind.
On that same day, a few hours later, the two bombs went off in Boston. When the connection to the troubles in Russia’s North Caucasus became apparent, the security services of both countries had a compelling reason to open lines of communication, at the very least.