John Kerry Runs Into a Brick Wall With Russian Counterpart
The stated goal of the John Kerry-Sergey Lavrov meeting in London today was to "create time and space" for talks to continue over Russia's intentions in Ukraine.
Well, it seems that Russia doesn't intend to budge until next week anyway, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry said in a news conference after the meeting.
"After much discussion, the foreign minister made it clear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday," he said, reiterating that the United States and international community still consider the vote to determine whether Crimea will become part of Russia illegitimate.
And while he continued to refrain from detailing the sanctions the United States has in place, Kerry warned again that the United States is ready to impose penalties on Russia if the referendum does take place.
"If the referendum takes place, there will be some sanctions, "he said. "There will be some response, let me put it that way."
Kerry also said that while he and Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed many options to resolve the crisis, and will continue to talk over the coming days, the ball remains in Russian President Vladimir Putin's court: Lavrov is getting on a plane bound for Russia soon where he'll brief Putin.
One of those options, Kerry spelled out, included Russia's ordering all troops in Crimea back to their barracks and freezing deployments of more soldiers, while he, Lavrov and E.U. member countries continue to hash out an agreement that remains mindful of Russia's "legitimate" territorial interests in Ukraine.
"I think, in fairness, Foreign Minister Lavrov is going to report that proposal back to President Putin as he did all of the proposals that we put on the table this afternoon," Kerry said. "President Putin will be well aware of all the options."
Kerry also stressed his "respect" for the unpredictable Russian president, repeating the word itself several times.
"We are prepared to respect his interests and rights and they can be fully respected," Kerry said.
He also tried to downplay the idea that the international community's efforts represent some kind of personal affront to Putin.
"We hope President Putin will recognize that none of what we're saying is meant as a threat, it's not meant in a personal way," he said.