The US envoy for the climate went to Moscow and spoke about more than just the weather: NPR

The US envoy for the climate went to Moscow and spoke about more than just the weather: NPR

The US envoy for the climate went to Moscow and spoke about more than just the weather: NPR

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry in Moscow on Monday. Kerry is the highest-ranking US official to visit Moscow since President Biden took office.

Dimitar Dilkoff / AP


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Dimitar Dilkoff / AP

The US envoy for the climate went to Moscow and spoke about more than just the weather: NPR

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry in Moscow on Monday. Kerry is the highest-ranking US official to visit Moscow since President Biden took office.

Dimitar Dilkoff / AP

MOSCOW – John Kerry, the United States’ special presidential envoy for climate, quietly traveled to Moscow this week, becoming the highest-ranking White House official to visit Russia since President Biden took office.

Kerry told NPR that his three days of talks with Kremlin officials were dedicated “exclusively” to climate change. But less than a month after Biden’s first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and amid a series of ransomware attacks attributed to Russian cybercriminals, Kerry’s trip was also aimed at improving the bilateral climate.

“Obviously, I think it’s helpful for countries to talk together and try to find something they can have common ground on and make things happen,” Kerry said in an interview at Spaso House, the residence of the US ambassador in Moscow.

Kerry said it was about an hour on the phone Wednesday with Putin, who was traveling outside of Moscow. Putin was “very forthcoming and thoughtful” about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Kerry said, and hoped that “we can continue to feel the kind of cooperative possibility that emerged in the course of our conversation.”

Kerry’s main job is to convince other countries to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which the Biden administration rejoined in February, reversing former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it.

The United States envoy for climate also ended up discussing cyber

When asked if he and Putin had talked about anything other than the weather, Kerry chose his words carefully.

“We talked about climate reductions and a very short but substantive annotation for both of us regarding the cyber situation at the moment,” he said, declining to elaborate.

During Kerry’s visit to Moscow, there were reports that REvil, the gang behind a series of recent attacks on US companies, had suddenly gone offline, although it was unclear whether by choice or because a government agency had attacked it. Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, told reporters he didn’t know if REvil’s disappearance had something to do with US demands that the group be shut down.

Days before Kerry’s visit, Biden phoned Putin to discuss the ransomware attacks that followed their Geneva summit, reiterating their promise to take “whatever action is necessary” to defend Americans and America’s critical infrastructure from cybercriminals.

The US envoy for the climate went to Moscow and spoke about more than just the weather: NPR

US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry is interviewed by NPR’s Lucian Kim on Wednesday at Spaso House, the official Moscow residence of the US ambassador to Russia.

Stefan Mizha / Press Office of the United States Embassy in Moscow


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Stefan Mizha / Press Office of the United States Embassy in Moscow

The US envoy for the climate went to Moscow and spoke about more than just the weather: NPR

US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry is interviewed by NPR’s Lucian Kim on Wednesday at Spaso House, the official Moscow residence of the US ambassador to Russia.

Stefan Mizha / Press Office of the United States Embassy in Moscow

It is no coincidence that Biden sent Kerry to Moscow to begin the process of elevating US-Russian relations from their lowest point since the Cold War. As Secretary of State to former President Barack Obama, Kerry traveled to Moscow so frequently that his Russian hosts started joking about his frequent visits.

On her last trip, Kerry received a warm welcome. After Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov greeted him on Monday for a lunch of smoked duck, filet mignon, and wine from southern Russia, a Moscow newspaper wrote that Kerry had received “an especially warm reception.”

Lavrov, who spoke to Kerry dozens of times during his tenure as US secretary of state, addressed him as “dear John.”

“Your visit is an important and positive signal from the point of view of promoting bilateral relations, eliminating tensions and establishing professional and substantive activities in areas where we can find common ground,” he added. Lavrov said. “This approach is fully consistent with the spirit of the Geneva summit between our presidents.”

Both parties seek areas of cooperation

Climate change is “the fruit of potential success” in US-Russian relations, he said. Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at The New School in New York.

“The more bilateral connections the better,” he said. “If both sides put ideology aside, this visit could lead to something positive.”

What threatens an improvement in bilateral relations, Khrushcheva said, are irreconcilable differences over the Middle East, Ukraine and jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Biden has used the issue of fighting climate change to soften relations with the Kremlin in the past. Putin was very offended when Biden agreed with an interviewer in March that the Russian leader was a “murderer.” nach Biden called him in April, Putin accepted the olive branch, first attending the White House virtual climate summit, then agreed to meet in Geneva.

In addition to nuclear weapons and cybersecurity, climate change is one area in which the Kremlin can interact with the United States as an equal, despite its lesser economic and geopolitical influence. For the Kremlin, the resumption of bilateral consultations on issues of global importance increases Russia’s prestige and signifies a return to the status quo before 2014, when the United States largely froze relations due to Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

The Russian president has evolved in the climate

Putin, who rules a carbon superpower with vast deposits of oil, gas and coal, used to be a climate skeptic. Hears once joked that “an increase of two or three degrees would not be so bad for a northern country like Russia. We could spend less on fur coats and the grain harvest would increase.” So Putin has culprit volcanic eruptions for causing more greenhouse gas emissions than humans and for poking fun at renewable energy.

Russia signed both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, the two landmark treaties designed to reduce greenhouse gases, in part because the country’s commitments were based on emissions in 1990, just before the collapse of the Union. The Soviet Union will tear down much of its heavy industry.

Even as his regime relies on Russia’s hydrocarbon revenue, Putin has begun to address the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this month, signed a law requiring Russian companies to report carbon emissions as of 2023.

“The urgency is as high as it could be, and that is the urgency that I brought here to Moscow in recent days,” Kerry said. “There is a willingness and willingness to undertake new initiatives.”

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