But diplomacy may have allowed them both to claim victory. The two sides agreed to allow a United Nations Security Council resolution, which is currently being negotiated in New York, to be filed under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force.
But any violations would be subject to an investigation and, if necessary, referred back to the Security Council to determine a punishment. Russia could then block those use of force on a case-by-case basis.
Kerry seemed to hint at the chance that, even under a Chapter 7 resolution, the use of force may not be authorized in the end.
"Use of force is clearly one of the options that may or may not be available to the Security Council," he said.
Chemical weapons disarmament is not cheap. Kerry said the United States and Russia would both commit an unspecified amount of funds and resources to this effort. He said they will ask UN members to contribute as well.
Kerry dismissed a question about his own assertion earlier this week that Assad would ever give up his chemical weapons.
"We didn't know it would be given the kind of life it has been given in the last 48 hours," he admitted Saturday.
He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, who irked many in Congress earlier this week by penning what was seen by some as a condescending an op-ed in the New York Times, for his role in setting up the deal.
"I'm pleased that President Putin took initiative," he said. "And President Obama responded and we're here."
While this agreement will remove a dangerous weapon from the arsenal of a government that has apparently shown a willingness to use them, it will not solve the underlying conflict.
With that in mind, today Kerry and Lavrov recommitted to organizing a long-delayed international peace conference. They'll meet with the UN's Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, later this month when they are all in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
"There is no military solution to the conflict, it has to be political," Kerry said.
Gen. Salim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, said in a news conference in Turkey that the Russian initiative was a "waste of time," The Associated Press reported.
Idris said the rebels will continue "fighting the regime and work for bringing it down," AP reported.