Remarks Before the Russia 2+2 Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
August 9, 2013

The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody, and welcome. We are delighted to welcome Ministers Lavrov and Shoygu, two Sergeys. We’re happy to have them here today, and I particularly want to welcome my old friend Chuck Hagel from the Defense Department.

The relationship between the United States and Russia is, needless to say, a very important relationship, and it is marked by both shared interests and at times colliding and conflicting interests. Now, I think we’re all very clear-eyed about that. Sergey Lavrov and I are old hockey players and we both know that diplomacy, like hockey, can sometimes result in the occasional collision. So we’re candid, very candid, about the areas in which we agree, but also the areas in which we disagree.

It’s no secret that we have experienced some challenging moments, and obviously not just over the Snowden case. We will discuss these differences today for certain. But this meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and the moments of disagreement. It is important for us to find ways to make progress on missile defense, on other strategic issues, including Afghanistan, Iran, on North Korea, and Syria. And one thing I would emphasize is that on Syria, while Sergey and I do not always agree completely on responsibility for the bloodshed or on some of the ways forward, both of us and our countries agree that to avoid institutional collapse and descent into chaos, the ultimate answer is a negotiated political solution. And Geneva 2 conference is a step toward that solution. And I look forward to a very honest and robust discussion on all of these issues.

So we welcome the delegation from Russia here today, and we look forward to a very productive, hopefully, and full conversation.


FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, thank you for the warm hospitality extended to myself and Sergey Shoygu, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. We attach great importance to cooperation in this format, +2. We haven’t met in a while and it was the right idea of the two presidents, Obama and Putin, when they met June 17th on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Lough Erne when they decided to resume the format. And thus we meet here today in Washington.

We were preparing a number of documents, a package of documents for approval at the meeting between the two presidents. I am referring to the statement on the comprehensive development of our cooperation in the context of the 80th anniversary of resumption of diplomatic relationship between our two countries we are celebrating this year. I’m also referring to the statement aimed at giving momentum to the development of trade and economic cooperation between our two countries. By design, presidents were supposed to adopt the statement in the presence of captains of business of the two countries, because we want economy to be way more dominant in our relations.

We also prepared number of statements on enhancing cooperation in combating drug threat, cooperation on – further cooperation – agreement on further cooperation of nuclear threat reduction centers, cooperation agreement on research and nuclear sector. So I want to highlight that we have laid very solid foundation for our future work, and once we start building on the foundation, once these – the instruments are approved, we will be able to enhance cooperation in different sectors, and significantly.

Today, naturally, we will discuss international issues, global security. In particular, John mentioned missile defense. We have been discussing this issue for a long time. First, we start – since we started discussions of the New START Treaty, we always spoke about missile defense, and we note with satisfaction that in his April letter to President Putin, President Obama recognized the need to take into account all factors that impact strategic stability when talking about reductions. In Lough Erne, our two presidents discussed steps that were proposed by our U.S. partners to increase transparency in the sector. Ministers of Defense of the two countries were given instructions in that respect, and at least we in Russia were prepared to table our proposals to the two presidents, and we will do so once their summit meeting takes place.

As regards crisis settlement, Syria indeed is on top of our agenda. Our goal is the same. We need to start political process. We need to stage Geneva 2 conference. And in my view, the most important task for the Geneva 2 would be honor the commitment of all G-8 leaders made in Lough Erne when they called upon both government and opposition to join efforts to fight terrorists and force them away from Syria. And I’m convinced that in the current day reality, especially in light of the fact and assessments we’ve been hearing lately, this is indeed our top priority.

Of course, Afghanistan is also important, Iranian nuclear program is, Korean peninsula nuclear issue, and many other topics will be discussed today. We are united by shared responsibility. We must prevent destabilization of the global situation. We must prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We need to ensure peaceful settlements of all crises by global community and avoid attempts to impose forced solutions irrespective of the situation. We’ve seen examples in the past, and we’ve seen that they are not working. Just like U.S., we want to see the situation get back to normal.

In Egypt, we want to see the national reconciliation process begin. We appreciate greatly efforts made by our U.S. colleagues and John Kerry personally. Especially, I’m referring to his efforts aimed at resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

So the agenda is very intense. Of course, we have disagreements. We’ll continue discussing matters on which we disagree calmly and candidly. I recall when I first met John in his capacity, his present-day capacity, and we were having this initial conversation, if I may put it that way, he told me that our countries have special responsibility, so we need to work as grown-ups. And this is what we do. And we hope that this will be reciprocal. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Sergey, thank you very much. Appreciate that. And Secretary Hagel.

SECRETARY HAGEL: Secretary Kerry, thank you. And you and your colleagues here at the State Department, thank you for hosting today’s meeting. To our guests from the Russian Federation, welcome. We are very grateful for this opportunity to spend some time with Minister Lavrov and Minister Shoygu and your colleagues who have accompanied you to address some of the most pressing and important issues facing our countries, facing the world. Our interests, almost in every case noted, and more, are mutual interests. The world is complicated; it is combustible. To find solutions at a critical time in the world are not easy. But just as Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry have noted, to address these clearly, directly with each other, honestly, and to find the common denominators where we can build high ground to move forward to help resolve these great issues of our time.

We live in a very defining time in the world, and just as Minister Lavrov noted in his first conversation with Secretary Kerry, our countries have some responsibility to each other, obviously, but to the world in many respects. We are leading nations, and we must work with alliances and others as to how we find these solutions to these great challenges.

Some of the issues that we will deal with today have been noted; there are others. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to spend an hour with Minister Shoygu this morning and his colleagues as we addressed some of the more specific issues related to our defense ministries and our military-to-military cooperation. That meeting was a very positive meeting, which set the standard, I hope, for our meeting today.

I very much look forward to this meeting, and again thank Ministers Lavrov and Shoygu and their delegation for being here, and to you, Secretary Kerry, for hosting us.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Hagel.

Mr. Minister Shoygu.

DEFENSE MINISTER SHOYGU: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Your Excellency. Secretaries, indeed, today I had an hour-long meeting with my colleague, Secretary Hagel. We spoke about military-to-military cooperation. We spoke about military-political and military-technical cooperation as well.

I would like to thank colleagues for the wonderful arrangement of the meeting here in Washington and once again highlight that the 2+2 format is, in our view, very efficient and important.

Naturally, we couldn’t but discuss issues that are of concern to our Washington colleagues today and to us – Afghanistan, in the first place, and the forthcoming 2014 events. Of course, we spoke about Syria. We also discussed bilateral cooperation, ways to intensify our contacts. We agreed to step up cooperation between deputy ministers of the two countries. And what is no less important, we spoke about how we could give incentive to practical cooperation, such as exercise, military exercise, both naval or special forces exercise.

We also spoke about the need for more transparency. I would like to make sure that major events, such as exercise and others hosted by the Ministry of Defense in the Russian Federation, would like to invite U.S. colleagues and will do that timely. And of course we would like to invite not just military attaches, but also delegations from the U.S. capital, from Washington, to attend major events.

We started talking about missile defense, but missile defense should probably be discussed in this expanded format, the way we have gathered today. And I would like to again thank U.S. colleagues for organizing the meeting, and I hope it’s going to be as constructive as my meeting with Secretary Hagel was. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Again, we emphasize the importance of this conversation and in order to do it properly, we regrettably need to ask our friends in the press if they would now leave us so that we can have an opportunity to talk. Thank you very, very much. Appreciate it.

PRN: 2013/0983