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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Academic Director of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC Member

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Russia on Tuesday was a sign of compromise and reconciliation, said a leading Russian expert.

During the visit shortly after Russia held a Red Square parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the anti-Fascist war, Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

At their talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Lavrov reaffirmed that Russia should not be blamed for the current stalemate over its relations with the United States, and that toughening confrontation and sanctions is a road to nowhere. He said Moscow is willing to work constructively with Washington "on a fair and equitable basis."

Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council for International Affairs, saw a great need for Washington to sit at the negotiating table with Russia.

"The consultations were needed due to recent rise of tension in the Middle East and eastern Ukraine, as well as certain criticism the Obama administration is facing within the U.S. for slashing contacts with Moscow," Kortunov told Xinhua.

The crisis in Ukraine has caused a dive of the relationship between Moscow and Washington, with Washington and its Western allies slapping rounds of sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its alleged military involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed over 6,000 lives so far.

Sporadic exchanges of fire are still being heard in eastern Ukraine despite a cease-fire deal. So the Ukraine crisis was no doubt one of the much discussed topics at Kerry's meetings in Russia, with both sides seeing no alternative to a political settlement of the crisis.

However, according to Kortunov, Washington has adopted a "well-calculated two-tire strategy" when dealing with the spiny issue. "It envisages and calls for dialogue while using tools of pressure such as economic sanctions, and military deployment might be near Russian borders," he said.

By proposing to join the so-called Normandy Quartet mechanism, Washington wants to show both Russia and the European Union (EU) that the Ukraine crisis cannot be solved without its involvement, but "Moscow's position is that the more complex a system is, the worse it works, so adding a new member to the format will just complicate the decision-making process," Kortunov said.

"If the U.S. would use its influence to force Kiev to find a peaceful solution, it will make sense for it to participate in the negotiating process," he said. "The question is, whether the U.S. wants that solution, to what degree and under what conditions."

It is noteworthy that German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Moscow Sunday and discussed with Putin the situation in Ukraine, as well as bilateral and the Russia-EU relations, which was more than a coincidence with Kerry's visit, according to Kortunov.

"The allies naturally coordinate their foreign policies and Kerry has been aware of the results of Merkel's talks," he said, adding that the West as a whole is not interested in further escalating the Ukraine crisis or worsening relations with Russia in areas where cooperation would be beneficial, such as the Iran nuclear issue, the Syrian crisis and international anti-terrorism campaigns, said the expert.

"So there is a ground for shifting focus from a confrontation with Moscow to a search for compromises, however lukewarm," Kortunov said. Endi


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