Kerry, Lavrov hold tense meeting amid Ukraine conflict, Nemtsov murder fallout | Fox News

This picture says way too much..
The Russians are feeling strong and confident and dictating the terms.. Kerry saying “pleeeeease pleeeeaaaase be nice”..

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GENEVA – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday with his Russian counterpart in what appeared to be less than amicable talks amid continuing tensions over Ukraine and American calls for a full probe into the murder of a prominent opposition figure in Moscow.

Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke for roughly 80 minutes at a Geneva hotel, according to the State Department, which did not immediately provide details of the discussion. Kerry said in a tweet that they talked about Ukraine, Syria and ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

But in a change from their usual cordial encounters for cameras, neither man smiled or spoke substantively as they shook hands at the start of the talks that took place less than a week after Kerry told Congress that Russian officials have lied to his face about Moscow’s role in Ukraine.


Vladimir Putin Has Careened From One Diplomatic Disaster to Another

Summing up for the New years eve… Putin has not been very good for Russia this time… or for the world.. And oil prices down 40% should add a lot of weight to his troubles…
People should stop calling him a big strategist and a chess player… this is backwards and unproductive leadership..

Militarily, Putin has had a mixed year: a clean and quick military victory in Crimea on the upside, but an ongoing military quagmire in eastern Ukraine on the downside.

Diplomatically, though, it’s been an endless succession of bad news. Ukraine is more firmly allied to the West than ever. Finland is wondering if it might not be such a bad idea to join NATO after all. The Baltic states, along with just about every other Russian neighbor, are desperate to reinforce their borders—and their NATO commitments. Russia has been dumped from the G7 and Putin himself was brutally snubbed by practically every other world leader at the G20 meeting in Brisbane. Economic sanctions are wreaking havoc with the Russian economy. China took advantage of all this to drive a harder bargain in negotiations over the long-planned Siberian gas pipeline. Even Angela Merkel has finally turned on Putin. Diplomatically, this year has been a disaster for Russia.

World Leaders Snub Putin at G20, Exile Him to ‘Social Siberia’

At times it seems like Russia’s President just wants some attention and to be liked.. and respected.. no matter how much he practices on his "stone face"..

It’s very sad and it creates a lot of damage to Russia.. and unnecessary tensions internationally.. and deaths in Ukraine..

Why doesn’t he try to make a successful and prosperous economy instead.. that would’ve brought him some real respect..

Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly set to walk out of the G20 summit in Australia a day early after drawing a series of rebukes over Ukraine and threats of further sanctions from Western leaders, but a Kremlin spokesman now says Putin plans to stay.

A member of Putin’s delegation told Reuters that Putin was planning to cut out on a working session Sunday during the second half of the two-day world leaders forum because he had business to attend to in Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later denied reports of Putin’s early exit. "This is wrong," Peskov said. "The president is taking part in all the (G20) events."

(..) Later at the summit, Putin received another social blow from Harper as he reached out to shake the Canadian Prime Minister’s hand.

"I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine," Harper said to Putin, according to the prime minister’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald.

(..) Later, as leaders assembled for the "family photo," Putin was placed on the far outer right of the other heads of state, and away from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who threatened to "shirtfront" rugby tackle the Russian leader last month over MH17.

BBC Ukraine crisis: Putin ‘orders Russian troop pullback’

Maybe this is good news, or maybe it’s just talk and games..
But at some level.. or in some moments of clarity.. Putin has to realize that his dream of an economic “Eurasian” union can only be achieved by being economically attractive to the neighboring states – not through force or occupation..
And this year’s events are just hurting Russia.. both short and medium term…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered thousands of troops stationed near the Ukrainian border to return to their bases, Russian media report.

Mr Putin’s spokesman said about 17,600 soldiers on training exercises in the Rostov region would be pulled back.

Russia has previously announced troop withdrawals that Nato and the US say were not actually carried out.

Russia has been accused of supplying troops and weapons to separatist rebels in east Ukraine – claims it denies.

NATO chief says ‘spearhead’ plan doesn’t breach treaty with Russia

What an excellent start for the new NATO head.. speaking clearly.. and factually and very strongly, pointing out the obvious transgressions in the east and not being afraid of the reactions..At this point Cameron and Stoltenberg have become two leading voices globally in confronting the problems with Russia and ISIS in the Middle East.

Europe takes a bigger lead internationally.. while Obama is a huge embarrassment..

(Read the whole story.. it’s recommended..)

(Reuters) – NATO’s plan to beef up its military presence in eastern Europe does not violate a post-Cold War deal struck with Russia on military force levels in the region, new alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said on a visit to Poland on Monday.

At an air force base in central Poland, Stoltenberg said he was committed to implementing a plan for a new “spearhead” rapid reaction force, conceived to reassure NATO member states in eastern Europe alarmed by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

Moscow has said this increased military presence on its western flank could violate a 1997 agreement on the type and size of forces NATO can station in former Soviet states.

Asked about the pact in an interview at the Lask air force base, Stoltenberg told Reuters that NATO’s increased military presence was in accordance with the U.S.-led bloc’s international obligations.

“There is no contradiction between more military presence in this area and also respecting the rule-based international order,”
said Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister.

(…) “We need to keep NATO strong, we need to help keep our neighborhood stable in cooperation with our partners and we need a rock-solid bond between the United States and Europe.

“That creates the best foundation for a more constructive, more cooperative relationship with Russia,” Stoltenberg said.

Russian Finance Minister Says Country Can’t Afford Current Military Spending

The economics of warfare and international sanctions on Russia might weigh more heavily on Putin as time passes by..

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the country’s military spending plans need to be "more realistic" and take into consideration forecasts for economic growth and budget revenue.

Siluanov addressed Russia’s Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, on October 7 and said his ministry wanted to reconsider the amount to be spent from the state budget on Russia’s multibillion dollar program to rearm and modernize the military.

Siluanov said currently Russian simply could not afford such spending and added the finance and defense ministries have already started talks on which programs could be financed from state coffers.

The current plan calls for spending some $576 billion on defense in the next six years.

Western sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin’s interference in Ukraine have hit Russian energy companies especially hard and those companies are responsible for bringing in a large amount of revenue to the Russian state.

Stoltenberg Says NATO Can Deploy Its Troops Wherever It Wants

Finally some stronger push-back on Putin from Europe.. the new NATO head speaks forcefully in military terms and goes to Poland.. strengthening the rapid response forces..
Stationing troops permanently along the Russian border seems to be off the table for now.. but it has to be suggested.. to create a balance and stop Russian expansions into neighboring countries….

WARSAW — New NATO head Jens Stoltenberg has said the Western alliance can deploy its forces wherever it wants, apparently calling into question post-Cold War agreements that have been shaken by Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine.

Stoltenberg was visiting NATO member Poland to reassure it that NATO would provide the protection it sought against its former communist master, Russia, which in recent months has annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and been accused by the West of sending troops and equipment to back pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

At a summit a month ago, NATO leaders agreed to set up a "spearhead" rapid reaction force that could be sent to a hotspot within days, and to pre-position equipment and supplies in eastern European countries to receive the force if needed.

But they rejected appeals from NATO members in Eastern Europe, including Poland, to station thousands of troops there permanently — partly because of the expense, and partly because they did not want to break a 1997 pact under which NATO promised Russia it would not permanently station significant combat forces in the east.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Ex-Oil Tycoon, Plans to Lead Political Movement

Looking beyond Putin and his backwards and counter-productive leadership of Russia, there are other forces that could bring the country forward at some point in the future… Mr. Khodorkovsky might not be it.. but there will be others..

WASHINGTON — The last time he was here, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky was an oil tycoon and Russia’s richest man in the midst of a political fight with the Kremlin. He had been warned to leave his country and stay away. But when he was done with his business in Washington, he defiantly headed home.

(..) “Russia has been wasting time these past 10 years,” Mr. Khodorkovsky told an audience of American admirers at a dinner sponsored by the advocacy organization Freedom House on Wednesday night, in his first speech in the United States since being released from prison last year. “Now is when we must begin to make up this lost time.”

Mr. Khodorkovsky’s visit signals a re-emergence after a period of staying largely out of sight. Now living in Switzerland, with much but not all of his fortune gone, Mr. Khodorkovsky announced last month that he was re-establishing Open Russia, his foundation supporting civil society in his home country. In recent days, he has positioned himself as the leader of a renewed opposition intent on replacing Mr. Putin and bringing European-style democracy to Russia.