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Russian foreign minister won’t return Kerry’s call

Secretary of State John Kerry called all the foreign ministers of countries that deal with North Korea following Monday’s nuclear test and all but one of them picked up the phone — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Kerry made his first remarks about the new nuclear test, which the North Koreans ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry called all the foreign ministers of countries that deal with North Korea following Monday’s nuclear test and all but one of them picked up the phone — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Kerry made his first remarks about the new nuclear test, which the North Koreans warned the State Department about in advance.

"With respect to the DPRK, President Obama made it crystal clear last night and previously in all comments, as have other countries, that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program are a threat now to the United States of America, because of what they are pursuing specifically, as well as to global security and peace," Kerry said.

"Following their latest provocation, which we have termed and believe is reckless and provocative, needlessly, I called Foreign Minister Kim of South Korea, I talked to Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, I talked to Foreign Minister Yang of China, and we have placed a phone call to Foreign Minister Lavrov, and consulted with all of them with respect to the steps that we need to take," Kerry went on. "The international community now needs to come together with a swift and clear, strong, credible response, as pledged in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2087."

The now-defunct six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program included the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Russia. But Russia’s leaders are the only members of that group with whom Kerry hasn’t spoken this week.

At Wednesday’s State Department press briefing, outgoing Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that Kerry was frantically trying to reach Lavrov. (The Cable has confirmed that Nuland will soon be replaced at the podium by White House Deputy Press Secretary Jen Psaki.)

"There’s been nothing frantic about it. He reached out to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday, made it clear again today that he’s ready to talk whenever Foreign Minister Lavrov can find the time," Nuland said.

On Tuesday, Nuland said that Kerry had called Lavrov early in the morning and was hoping to connect with him by the end of that day. Lavrov has been traveling in Africa, she noted.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had similar difficulty reaching Lavrov quickly by phone. In early 2012, Lavrov was traveling in Australia and didn’t return Clinton’s call about a pending U.N. resolution on Syria.

One reporter asked Nuland Wednesday whether the State Department had communicated to the Russian Foreign Ministry its displeasure of Russia’s announcement that it will continue to fulfill arms sales contracts to the Syrian regime.

"I think it’s fair to say… that in every conversation with a senior Russian leader, from President Putin through Foreign Minister Lavrov and all the way down, the issue of Russia’s continued resupply of Syria comes up," Nuland said.

"Maybe you could text him," one reporter joked.

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 josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

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. Twitter: @joshrogin

Tag: Russia