Kerry to Russians: Just ignore Obama

The President has a lot of Rodney Dangerfield days as the lame duck session grinds on, and I’m sure he feels that he just can’t get any respect. But he was probably expecting better from his own Secretary of State. Well… at least a little better than this.

Though it went entirely unnoticed in the Western press, all major Russian news outlets – RIA Novosti, Sputnik, RT, and others – were only too happy to report on what US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in private: “Just ignore Obama’s statements.”

According to Mr. Lavrov, John Kerry advised him not to pay too much attention to the US President’s harsh rhetoric directed toward his state. As recently as September, during his speech to the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Mr. Obama puzzled and shocked Mr. Lavrov by placing “Russian aggression in Europe” in second place among the world’s threats, behind only the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, resigning to third place the “brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq.” “Aggressive Russia” again was included in Mr. Obama’s world top-danger list during November’s G20 Summit in Australia.

According to a translation commissioned by the Observer, Mr. Kerry advised Mr. Lavrov to “just ignore Obama’s statements.” Google translator phrases the nuance slightly differently: “Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says US Secretary of State John Kerry called on him to ‘pay no mind’ to a statement by President Obama.” But the take-home message is clearly the same.

I’m not sure how far back the etymology of the “pay no mind list” goes, but it’s probably as far as I can remember. No matter the source, it’s a list that Barack Obama seems to have found himself on with one of the highest members of his cabinet. It’s interesting to note that Kerry’s Russian counterpart referred to America’s attitude toward Russia as “consumerist.” He clarified that to mean that the Russians view boisterous comments from the White House as political fabric of little consequence. The Americans, in their view, are happy to criticize Russia when it makes for good TV, but are equally delighted to go work with them if there is a policy issue where we think they can help us.

Rough language, to be sure. But is the accusation really that far off the mark? Sure, we’ve imposed sanctions which have annoyed quite a few powerful people in Russia. But we also really haven’t closed the doors on them at all, have we? This may be one of those massive international “gaffe” moments where several people began telling the truth without meaning to.