MOSCOW – The U.S. Secretary of State’s motorcade often halts traffic when he travels abroad, but today it proved no match for columns of Russian tanks, ICBMs and armored personnel carriers.
Secretary John Kerry arrived in Moscow for meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, but he had to cool his heels at the airport for about 30 minutes because a rehearsal for an upcoming military parade was blocking his route downtown.
Every May 9, Russians celebrate Victory Day, marking their triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II. Moscow hosts an annual parade in Red Square complete with row of marching troops and rumbling military vehicles. For several days before the celebration the city’s notoriously snarled traffic gets even worse as the hulking olive drab machinery makes its way to and from Red Square along one of the city’s main avenues.
Kerry’s hotel is near the parade site, as was his first scheduled stop, the tomb of the unknown soldier where he planned to lay a wreath. That left him nowhere to go but to stay at the airport.
“I just came from your hotel and I can confirm it was surrounded by tanks,” the American Ambassador Michael McFaul joked on the tarmac.
Kerry did not seem bothered by the delay. He likely won’t have a chance to enjoy even the rehearsals that are taking place just steps from his hotel room. His back-to-back meetings with Russian officials will focus on finding a resolution to the crisis in Syria and on the investigation into the alleged Boston bombers, who came from Russia’s restive Caucasus region. Cooperation on other major global issues such as Iran and North Korea are also on the agenda. He leaves for Rome on Wednesday, a day before the parade.