- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
Few diplomats have seen quite as much success in stifling American ambitions on the world stage as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It’s even won him a nickname: Minister Nyet. But fresh off victories to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons and a deal to pause Iran’s nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry has shown a remarkable ability to work with a man who gleefully made life miserable for Kerry’s predecessor in Foggy Bottom. On Monday, Kerry made his latest overture in his budding romance with the Russian foreign minister, offering Lavrov an unusual gift: two sizable Idaho potatoes.
Amid some chuckles and giggles, Lavrov called the starchy tubers "impressive." Puzzled? Apparently the last time the two officials met, Lavrov had mentioned Idaho potatoes — potatoes, of course, are a basic ingredient of Eastern European cuisine. Kerry, like an attentive suitor, took notice and brought Lavrov some spuds as a show of affection ahead of a meeting in Paris as part of the run-up to peace talks in Geneva next week aimed at bringing the Syrian civil war to a close.
In return, the Russian delegation offered a traditional furry "ushanka" hat to Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson. That gift was accompanied by what must be the most Russian explanation to ever accompany a gift to a U.S. diplomat. The hat, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account explained, would help Psaki "to stay warm & fancy during US winter storm." The hat may be a cold-weather Russian wardrobe staple, but Psaki’s came in a good-old-fashioned American shade of Barbie pink.
— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) January 13, 2014
In a remarkable departure from the acrimony that has marked U.S.-Russian relations in recent years, Maria Zakharova, deputy director of the Russian foreign ministry’s information and press department, said on Facebook that "everyone was happy."
Good thing that Kerry and Lavrov have what has been called "a good working relationship," because when potatoes get involved in politics, it’s not always pretty. In 2006, Germany and Poland became engaged in a full-on "potato war," when a German newspaper used the starchy food as an epithet towards the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski. And just last week a Zambian opposition leader was arrested and charged with defamation after he called the country’s president a potato.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |