Diplomacy

Kerry: “I Hope” Crimea Won’t Undercut Syrian Chemical Weapons Deal

Reuters yesterday conveyed statements from Secretary of State John Kerry expressing his “hope” that the Ukraine crisis, which has pitted Washington against Russia, would not impact the international effort to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a context in which the Obama administration had gambled heavily on extensive cooperation from the Kremlin.

“I hope not. All I can say is I hope the same motivations that drove Russia to be a partner in this effort will still exist,” Kerry told reporters in the Hague, where he is planning to attend a G7 summit.

A separate Reuters report quoted Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, noting that Syria might miss its final deadline for the destruction of that arsenal. Uzumcu was the first OPCW official to publicly air the possibility, though the assessment was not unexpected.

Kerry’s statements came after weeks of assurances from the State Department, made both to lawmakers and to journalists, assessing that the Russians would be able to “compartmentalize” hostilities in Crimea and continue cooperating with the West not just in Syria but also in Iran.

Analysts had been skeptical of the claims, a view subsequently reinforced by Russian statements – issued last Wednesday by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov – threatening to “rais[e] the stakes” of events unfolding in Ukraine by altering Moscow’s stance on Iran talks.

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