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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 18, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
The Kremlin Says State Department Visits To Moscow Are Proof That Relations Are Normalizing
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Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, is in Moscow to meet with high-ranking members of the Russian government, and for the second time in a week the Kremlin is hailing the State Department's actions as signs of improving ties between the United States and Russia. RFE/RL reports:

The State Department has said Nuland would be in Moscow on May 17-18 to discuss with senior government officials next steps in the implementation of a cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine.

The visit comes after Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week.

Asked on May 18 if the visit was a sign of improving ties, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, "Yes, when President Putin was meeting with Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry... it was mentioned that a closer dialogue ... was needed."

Nuland held separate talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alekseyeva on May 18.

It's not clear whether senior levels of the U.S. State Department are trying to send this message to Russia, however. Kerry's visit was timed to miss the May 9 Victory Day celebration which commemorated the defeat of the Nazis in World War II -- a decision Russia said was a snub. And yet, Kerry's trip made headlines anyway, and because of his comments condemning hypothetical Ukrainian military action, Kerry raised the prospect of a growing gap between the United States and Ukraine. 

On the other hand, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, and NATO Supreme Commander and U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove have sent clear messages through the media that they believe that the Russian-backed separatists are belligerent and don't want peace, and that Russia is preparing yet another wave of invasion into Ukraine:

But while things are heating up in Ukraine, one has to wonder whether the different messages coming out of senior officials in the State Department represents a change in direction or just mistakes in strategy. Either way, the Kremlin is excited by the fact that the White House, intentionally or unintentionally, is sending signals that diplomacy is working and the relationship between Moscow and D.C. is warming.
-- James Miller