Tension Between U.S. Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister Flares at OSCE Talks
Talks between United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have concluded, with no apparent progress on re-familiarizing US-Russian relations. Tillerson and Lavrov made contact during a meeting held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The lack of concrete policy progress over joint areas of cooperation may be attributed to Tillerson’s hard-line stance on sanctions: the removal of Russian troops in Ukraine.
Conflict zones and areas of tensions that are relevant to the US and Russia overlap in Syria and North Korea. Although continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine, remains a point of diplomatic tensions. Tillerson’s strong rhetoric regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine during a speech in front of OSCE, soured the tone of their talks. The Secretary of State also addressed the United States’ focus on eastern Ukraine, stating that the US was devoting many of its military resources to Eastern Ukraine due to the escalation in violence in that region. However, he warned Russia not to perceive this as an acceptance of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, stating “we will never accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea”.
Lavrov responded with equally biting statements: he criticized NATO for its military build-up along Russian borders, and he accused the US of using an international forum to apply pressure on Russian diplomats. The two parties continued to engage in a verbal sparring match over the course of the OSCE meeting, with Tillerson continuing to strong-arm Lavrov on issues of popular contention such as interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign. Lavrov responded with vehement denial.
However, in a statement to the press following the meeting, Tillerson managed to express optimism, affirming that “renormalizing a relationship with Russia” was something that the United States would “badly like to do”. He articulated confidence in a long-term process, despite the lack of immediate progress, citing that “we get dialogue, we get cooperation, we don't have it solved. You don't solve it in one meeting”.