By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, last Wednesday, January 20, with US Secretary of State, John Kerry. The meeting-room and press opportunity were set up by State Department officials. One of the Kerry delegation was Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. She is one of several Washington officials directing the war against Russia on the Ukraine front. In her arsenal, Nuland’s mouth has been used to attack European governments reluctant to join her war, as her “Fuck the EU” remark to US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, revealed at the start of 2014, before President Victor Yanukovich was ousted in Kiev.
The sequence of stills showing Lavrov greeting the US delegation for the press, ahead of the Zurich talks, has been extracted from a videotape recorded by a Russian press camera crew. Lavrov’s hand shakes every US official introduced by Kerry (1), except for Nuland. Her hand was extended (2), then slipped, or slapped past, as Lavrov turned to his left to greet each of the junior US officials lining the wall. As he did so, Lavrov presented Nuland with his right shoulder. Nuland’s mouth fell open (3); the microphones recorded that nothing came out.
On January 15, five days earlier, Nuland had met Kremlin advisor, Vyacheslav Surkov. According to the US Government organ, Radio Free Europe, and the Russian state news service, the meeting had taken place at a Russian state residence at Pionersky, near Kaliningrad city, behind closed doors. Tass reported their talks lasted for more than four hours. No photographs have been released.
The State Department announced later in the day: “The talks were constructive and designed to support the ongoing work of the Normandy countries and the Trilateral Contact Group.” Surkov told the Russian media: “We had rather substantial, constructive and helpful discussions. It was, so to speak, brainstorming on ways to find compromises in the implementation of the Minsk agreements.”
Surkov’s (below, left) meeting was endorsed by Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov (right), on January 19. He told Tass that Surkov had reported on Nuland to President Vladimir Putin. Peskov also claimed: “Regarding these talks, in this case we are talking about dialogue at the expert level between Moscow and Washington. As you know, the United States is not party to the Normandy process, at the same time, of course everyone is interested in the United States having the opportunity to receive first hand information, [despite] not being a member of the Normandy process.”
One day later, at the Zurich meeting, note the Russian flag behind Kerry (4). Minutes before the meeting commenced, the State Department organizer recorded this response to a Russian cameraman’s warning that the Russian standard was flying on its flag-pole upside down. This has been an important signal since the time of sailing ships. According to the US Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Sect 176 (a), the display of the flag upside down is a “signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
These images have been interpreted in the international media as indicators of Russian, also American animus towards each other, as the war to topple the Russian government enters its third year. This interpretation is mistaken. The images are signals intelligence (sigint), but they aren’t encrypted or coded. Nuland’s moves revealed her belief that she can conduct warfare without risk to herself. Her gape registered shock that she is a target.
Lavrov’s moves weren’t a display of personal pique. They communicated the conclusion of the General Staff, the intelligence services, and the Foreign Ministry that there is no point in talking to US officials like Nuland. That is because there has been nothing they have said, or signed their names to over the past two years, which can be believed. If Nuland conducts this war, Lavrov was signalling, the outcome will be decided by arms, at the front.
This was not the Nuland signal Surkov and Peskov have sent.
NOTE: an alert reader who has studied the Zurich meeting record points out that for less than a second, between 0.19 and 0.20 of the running tape, Lavrov’s hand and Nuland’s appear to touch. Comparing Lavrov’s grip and hand-shake with every other American in the room, the Nuland move is more a slip or a slide; it’s not the shake Nuland’s hand was extended for and anticipating. Watch again.
Doesn’t she have a family she could spend more time with?
her neoconservative husband robert kagan?
Is the supreme court Kagan a relative of hers? I’ve seen information that is contradictory.
Kagan is a relatively common Jewish name.
Haha… probably not even her family wants her…
Would you want to spend more time with Robert Kagan?
“If Nuland conducts this war, Lavrov was signalling, the outcome will be decided by arms, at the front.”
Ruble has fallen 70% in value in 2 years, a record low. Oil has collapsed to $30 a barrel. Russian reserves bleeding tens of billions per month, the Russian economy is running fall speed in reverse… the US need not push Russia into a corner, market forces are doing that work far more efficiently.
The ruble fall is good for Russian exports and it lowers imports which is also officially wanted.
Russian reserves are again stable at a high level (see Marc Adomanis at Forbes who dove into the numbers). Russian companies have deleveraged and no longer eat up foreign reserves.
The Russian economy did decline but the rate of decline has slowed and at the end of this year it will grow again. Sanctions will likely be lifted this year (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-25/russian-entente-nears-as-allies-hint-at-end-of-ukraine-sanctions).
Inflation is still too high but some steps to lower inflation have already started.
So there you go. Russia is just fine while Ukraine is now a millstone around the “west”‘s neck.
Woaa some serious monty python black night material here..
Nothing about this is good for Russia.
More specifically this is not good for the Russian people which are the one’s that suffer the consequences, the squeeze on fresh food for example. The more than equal class will do fine of course.
Nor is it good for the Russian oil industry that is the major source of revenue with a heavy reliance on western technology and expertise, nor is it good for the enviornment which even on a good day suffers some of the worst if not the worst chronic pollution in the world from said extraction industry.
So no, you need a reality check.
As for Helmer, he tends to spill alot of ink picking flyshit from the pepper.
I did get a laugh at the screen grab pics as presented. tho.. The last one is meme quality, it looks like Nulan was late to the buffet and the suspicious tuna salad sandwich is all thats left
I agree with you none of this is good for Russia and its people and it’s not good for Europe and its people, either. But the alternative is much worse, as in not standing up to the US now could see what happened in Ukraine also happen in Russia. And the ones to benefit from that would be US Oligarchs & corporations. Also Russia has the resources to be totally independent of the West (including fresh vegetables) and is moving in that direction. That doesn’t mean Russia wants all this to happen. Unlike the US, Russia is sane.
If this is the same ‘b’ as the ‘b’ who posts on Moon of Alabama then I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss what he says. Here is a recent article by ‘b’ on this topic.
…and after quickly reading the MoA article, it is fairly clear that it is the same ‘b’.
I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss what he says.
I dismiss the premise that the current situation is good for the Russian economy, if that is what b is implying
Also Russia has the resources to be totally independent of the West (including fresh vegetables) and is moving in that direction.
Simplistic thinking, IIRC something like 60-70% (maybe more?) of Russia’s economy is derived from resource exports. And much of that is dependent on western technology and expertise.
“Simplistic thinking, IIRC something like 60-70% (maybe more?) of Russia’s economy is derived from resource exports. And much of that is dependent on western technology and expertise.”
Why is it “simplistic thinking” to note Russia is moving to become more independent of the West? This implies you think it is sophisticated to say Russia is dependent on the West therefore it’s best Russia should give up and obey the US.
IMO that would be worse for the Russian people and Europeans. And maybe just maybe MUCH worse – along way down the road of surrender to Western oligarchs could lead to another Russian Revolution like the Communists in the early 1900’s.
And no one is saying things are good for Russian economy.
Why is it “simplistic thinking” to note Russia is moving to become more independent of the West?
This is not what I responded to.
Also Russia has the resources to be totally independent of the West (including fresh vegetables) and is moving in that direction
Is what I referred to as simplistic thinking.
Russia would be wise to develop world class commercial/industrial infrastructure to service domestic consumption and to serve as a diversification away from an economy wholly dependent on resource exploitation for export.
Will this happen without interaction with the Western economies? No I think that is a simplistic notion.
“Russia would be wise to develop world class commercial/industrial infrastructure to service domestic consumption and to serve as a diversification away from an economy wholly dependent on resource exploitation for export.”
That’s just a fancier way of saying what I “simplistically” have said – that Russia must develop more independence form the West – is it not?
“Will this happen without interaction with the Western economies? No I think that is a simplistic notion.”
Have you forgotten the West imposed sanctions on Russia? Russia would like to work with the West because it knows that would be easier, but the West has decided it won’t, so Russia is become more independent of the West and turing to other nations.
Russia is capable of being completely independent of the West if necessary and is taking steps to move East and improve it’s service to it’s own domestic market. Why is it “simplistic” when I say this, but not simplistic when you say the same thing with bigger words?
And Russia is developing and some cases already has “world class commercial/industrial infrastructure” If you google you’ll find one with military sales though you’ll have to look past the Western narrative of titles like “Russia Just opened a Theme Park for Warmongers” etc. Russian dairy food, and agriculture are expanding and improving in response to economic sanctions.
Why do you think that is “simplistic”?
That’s just a fancier way of saying what I “simplistically” have said – that Russia must develop more independence form the West – is it not?
NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Also Russia has the resources to be totally independent of the West (including fresh vegetables) and is moving in that direction.
NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT! Nor does any other Country with a significant economy I am aware of. Give me a shout out when Russia is “totally” independent” — just in the agricultural sector.
It being in the interest of Russia to diversify economically is NOT EQUIVALENT to saying that it is in Russia’s interest to stop interacting economically with WESTERN ECONOMIES!
.Have you forgotten the West imposed sanctions on Russia?.
No I haven’t, but that’s a political issue, it really has nothing to do with the PRACTICALITY of Russia becoming economically independent of “the West”. and IIRC the sanctions are principally targeting finance and technology ( specifically petroleum exploration technology and professional services — thankfully for the Arctic a deferred bullet to the head when it comes to Russian seep sea drilling there)
Incidentally, it is actually the Russian Government that is putting bans on imported good –specifically food products.
Russia would like to work with the West because it knows that would be easier, but the West has decided it won’t, so Russia is become more independent of the West and turing to other nations.
A couple significant examples of this independence?? For example, has Russia stopped energy exports to “the West”?
And Russia is developing and some cases already has “world class commercial/industrial infrastructure
Russians are also a lot more willing to endure suffering. And not just in some historical, cultural sense; plenty of Russians alive today will clearly remember the 90s. They also know who to blame, for both then and now. They’ll get through this, and they won’t forget who essentially declared war on their general population.
Roughly 40% of Russian food is produced in personal gardens, so I wouldn’t worry too much about Russians starving. Your argument also applies to every protectionist and devaluation policy. There are costs involved to domestic consumers, which allows the domestic producers to develop as they are not out-competed by imports. That has been the method by which almost every rich country built a diverse and strong economy.
“…the US need not push Russia into a corner, market forces are doing that work far more efficiently.”
I think you’re confusing markets with the US government.
It is the fall in the price of oil in part caused by political decisions, and partly Obama’s illegal economic sanctions on Russia and US lies and propaganda and regime change directed at Russia that are “efficiently” doing what they’re doing.
Would be very surprised if Washington is successful with any of it’s “market forces” regarding Russia because Russia knows if it loses this matchup in Syria and retreats, the part that comes next is it Uncle Sam funding ISIS like terrorists on Russian soil instead of Syria as it is now. And if Russia can free itself of Western economic orthodoxy and dump the dollar, it will never fear a falling Rubble so much ever again. Lets hope Putin orders a moving away of short term Russian dollar holdings, so that a deliberate Russian default sees the West lose more in lost Russian payments than it can seize in Russian assets held in their countries.
Then who would “market forces be efficiently working for”?
In broad simplified stroke, Russia is fighting on the side of the angels and US is the Darth Vader of the world. The U.N. has said we have the biggest refugee crisis since WWII and the refugees are all coming from nations the US is or has done regime change in. Aside for this meaning Obama is directly responsible for the suffering if tens of millions of families and deaths of hundreds of thousands, it also is producing maybe dangerous right wing political reactions in Europe.
The Russians are smart enough to know the difference between economic sanctions and military threats and US funded/promoted terrorism. I’ve watched their actions long enough to trust them to make sound, intelligent responses (though was disappointed Lavrov agreed to allow Obama&Co funded Al-qaeda like terrorists to be included as legitimate political opponents of Assad in the peace talks).
Why the hell should he shake her hand? She’s an ideological, irrational hate-monger who despises Russia. Kerry was an ass for bringing her along.
Kerry was probably disciplining her or rehabilitating her; there musts be a tempered new consensus at State. You’re coming with me Vicki and you are going to behave like a rational, sincere diplomat because you’ve got some big fences to mend.
Look at the video. The original article is flat wrong. The handshake isn’t warm, but it fulfills the function.
Steve H is correct. This post should be removed from Naked Capitalism. It is false.
I watched the video and while he does grasp hands with and give her the most minimal handshake imaginable, he looks away and points his shoulder at her immediately, snubbing her without being too obvious about it, and her reaction makes it clear he got his point across.
I see Clive has a better description of the tactic but will leave my comment.
You’re right there was a perfunctory hand shake, which did not appear all that different from the rest of the lower level officals. Also, not sure about the flag – perhaps just ignorance of whoever prepared the room. Perhaps this is making a mountain of a molehill?
No he did not close his grip, He either slipped his hand by hers or at most touched her as briefly as possible. This was the handshake version of an air kiss when those are not done.
No, handshake snubbing is a well understood method of diplomatic gamesmanship and used as a public rebuke / symbol of disapproval.
Sarkozy did exactly the same to Cameron a few years ago:
The masters of the art don’t pointedly stand there with their arms crossed; the trick is to not be confrontational but to make it clear you aren’t going to do a proper handshake. Lavrov, like Sarkozy, executed the manoeuvre expertly.
I have great respect for your understanding of nuance, Clive. Your posts on Japan are deeply insightful. I defer to your understanding of the intent.
Helmer, not so much. I think he took the original source article on faith without watching the video. He then refers to an ‘alert reader’ and writes, “Comparing Lavrov’s grip and hand-shake with every other American in the room…” Which I did, and no subsequent handshake seems any less perfunctory than Nuland’s.
After watching the video, at a glance, I’m with you. I don’t see anything different.
However, Russia Insider is saying it. Yves and Clive are saying it, so I’m going to presume that the people who know more about this than I do have it right.
Also, I’m with the others on this….she’s dangerous and needs another line of work.
The handshake isn’t the point, the story is the point. Whether he executed the fake-handshake well or not, the Russians wanted to tell this particular snub-story, which they did.
Ah. So what you are saying is that what’s really news about the snub-or-not-a-snub so to speak, is that the Russians want this to actually be “news” and not just a non-verbal spat between diplomats. Essentially driving the point home that Vicki is too dumb to get the snub the first time, which in and of itself is adding insult to injury.
Not exactly. Sarkozy’s was a blunt snub. No physical contact and no eye contact – not even an acknowledgement of being, from what I could tell. This was not the case with Lavrov.
Yelling means you still care.
Ignoring is the worst insult…no acknowledgement of being.
“She isn’t even aware of my existence.”
Agree with Steve H.. A full snub is wishful thinking at best. He hardly makes eye contact with her, but that is about it. He does shake her hand – pretty obviously not a slap. His subsequent handshakes are about the same.
What’s the point to this??
The look on Nuland’s face is a tell.
Victoria Nuland is a monstrous diplomat who has soufght to cause or caused untold harm in American-Russian relations. She reflected Hillary Clinton’s thinking and evidently reflects John Kerry’s and ultimately the President’s thinking.
Correcting and adding:
Victoria Nuland is a monstrous diplomat who has sought to cause or caused untold harm in American-Russian relations. She reflected Hillary Clinton’s thinking and evidently reflects John Kerry’s and ultimately the President’s thinking. (I could care less about the shaking or not shaking. Nuland’s presence is a sign of disrespect to Russia and the Russians know that perfectly well. This post is needed and excellent.)
I think her presence and her humiliation (notice Kerry left the room) are the equivalent of an apology to Lavrov and Russia for her dingbat, destructive role in Ukraine.
I watched the tape a couple of times. I think your headline is making a huge deal out of nothing. He did shake her hand. It was not a slip or a slap, Her mouth was not agape. Otherwise, it is a well written article. Why not stick to reporting the important facts instead of focusing on things that only occur in your imagination?
You don’t know much about effective snubbing. If you are aggressive then the snub rebounds on the snubber and the snubbed gets a (maybe unwarranted) sympathy vote. You have to carry out the snub in such a way that it is obvious who is being snubbed — and the context where the snub takes place should, ideally, indicate why — but in diplomatic circles you cannot be blatant and hostile. There has to be some element of subtly.
Queen Sofia of Spain gave a masterclass in snubbing to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (over some trivial colonial nonsense rather than the far more justified snubbing of Nuland):
It’s not as easy to pull off as you make out. As noted in the Guardian piece, you have to give the impression that you intend to carry out the action (like Lavrov gave a hint that he would do a proper handshake with Nuland) then call off the show at the last second. Sarkozy used the same technique to Cameron in the incident I linked to above.
It has been reported elsewhere Nuland originally asked for a meeting with Putin at the spur of the moment for some “big” message and they reluctantly gave her the Duo as noted. So the protocol of asking for Putin was a major negative. Who does she think she is?
They want to eliminate Her – it is very clear she has extreme negative energy in a very difficult explosive relationship between these two countries – and for safety should be removed from the scene
She is not a Diplomat – She is a Egoist with a Kagan Family agenda
Nuland is snubbing him. She looks down and says “hello”. She doesn’t like him, she feels she should be secretary of state, not Kerry. She is a small person who strives to have influence and feels she’s not listened to enough. She’s utterly ineffective and seen by everybody, American and Russians as a troublesome flea who has to be put up with. She’s not directing the policy, she’s an instrument of the policy.
If Nuland and her posse are as instrumental in the devastation brought to Ukraine as reported then I think she deserves a damned good shaking.
Interesting, thanks. I think the article is worthy. I certainly could not blame Lavrov for snubbing this horrid excuse for a human being. The Kaganate of Nuland represents a portion of Obama’s foreign policy and reflects what will be ahead should HRC win the election. The entire Kagan family should not be hired to do this work on behalf of “We the People,” but there they are… doing their evil thing.
Bill Kristol and David Brooks cries out wondering where all the conservatives have gone?
The answer is right there….Nuland, Kristol and Co. have driven the GOP base who are even mildly aware of foreign affairs to Trump’s camp.
Nuland was not even appropriately dressed for a diplomatic meeting IMO.
I guess I’ll never be a diplomat.
I would have spit on her (& I’m Amurkin)
Perhaps Nuland thought Lavrov was a subject of some kind. She’s probably too arrogant and stupid to figure it out, but she has now encountered a legitimate opponent. When the day of reckoning comes for her, she may learn what responsibility is.
maybe I see more than is there, but it seems Secty Kerry was moving to insure nulee was not the first person to attempt to shake hands with the FM Lavrov…also the other US (?) parties were standing by the wall but Nulee was by her chair, perhaps further causing protocol issues(not an expert on prot…)…certainly the FM sent a personal message to her by his miserly attempt at a hand shake insuring since she put out her hand and Secty Kerry pointed her out, that he had to at least give her some passing glance…or perhaps Secty Kerry was forcing FM Lavrov to acknowledge her since perhaps maybe FM Lavrov might have just walked right past her and left her hand hanging…
either way, it seems smart to allow the Russians back into the fray of global issues, along with the Chinese, as neither has the capacity now, or in the near future, to project much firepower beyond their borders, and having them in the room allows the US to not be seen as the “worlds” policeman…even though we are…
besides, watching the russians and chinese try to handle hot spots creates intel we could not get by just guessing how things might turn out…
many tend to forget thinking in WW2 manners and methods ignores the expansive number of motor vehicles that just did not exist during ww2 or even into vietnam and russias afghanistan. Globally, the minute number of tanks and air capacity available to the west, russia and china is really just for parade purposes…
there is no chance in hell the world falls into some ww3 scenario as all sides are aware they would all stall within 45 days…same reason no one ever wanted to launch a preemptive nuclear strike…can’t launch a shuttle if a butterfly farts in miami, but two guys in a silo with keys will always lead to those little rockets actually making it out of the silo, let alone acting like the slingshots they are and hope they don’t burp up before they get high enough to float down to their targets…and that trench warfare stuff of 100 years ago didn’t really work out too well for anyone…
the problem IMUO(useless) is the refusal of the last few dictators/kleptoratz to hand over the keys is getting much more attention then it might otherwise…
life goes on in syria, ukraine, iraq and many other countries that should be seen as an example to ignore those who are constantly crying chicken little in the usa…
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Ever since that schoolboyish thing in Australia – leaving Putin sitting at lunch by himself whilst the other world leaders sniggered and smirked nearby, I have had the sense that we are creating the problem we seek to avoid.
Putin is tops in Russia, everyone supports him and the handful of people who were willing to take our shilling to ridicule and provoke Russia (think Pussy Riot) have gone underground. The country is more united behind P and M and Lavrov now than it has been for a very long time.
The sensible course of action is to stop insulting the country and its people and see if we can get by together.