John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov: Fatal attraction III

If it's true what they say about "opposites attract", the rapport between them has certainly evolved into attraction.

They might bond and drink and speak of the world from their high towers, but both diplomats realise the limits of their influence, writes Bishara [AFP]

Editor's note: This article is the third piece of a five-part series that examines the bizarre and at times uncanny relationship between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov. Click to read the first and the second articles.

Four months into the job, and John Kerry had already met Sergey Lavrov five times - in Berlin, London, Brussels, Moscow and Kiruna, Sweden - the most meetings Kerry has had with any foreign diplomat.

One long high-level meeting after another, their formal relationship gave way to intimate rapport as the two men took long strolls, rode along in the same sleek motorcade, enjoyed face-to-face chats without their aides. I guess, they needed or wanted to keep some things off the record or top secret.

Kerry, left, sits with Lavrov on a bench in the lawn of the US ambassador's residence in Paris on October 14, 2014 [US State Department photo/Public Domain/Flickr]

Even their body language began to change, reflecting a new type of amiable bonding.

But if it's true what they say about "opposites attract", the rapport between Kerry and Lavrov has certainly evolved into an eerie - perhaps even fatal - attraction.


When one speaks of bromance nowadays, Hollywood jumps into the picture immediately. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, or if you're a Star Trek buff, Kirk and Spock are a good example.

And in the political world, the French and German leaders and architects of the European Union, Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder were quite close and at times looked - but weren't exactly - intimate.

At any rate, John and Sergey are tall, athletic and imposing figures, who share more than a few characteristics.

Kerry, left, meets with Lavrov on September 27, 2015, in New York [AP]

Lavrov has a wry sense of irony, while Kerry has a playful sense of humour. Both share an appreciation for the good life, good drinks and designer clothes - good old imperialist emissaries of the Russian and American mould.

Reportedly, both could be nice and courteous, but neither is modest. Kerry was known among some of his colleagues as unrelenting, but also as a "gasbag". And Lavrov was called formidable but also an "a*****e" in Washington, where they apparently "love to hate him".

Bonding buddies

After finishing one of their long working dinners that went on till midnight discussing Syria and other stuff, Kerry and Lavrov, for whatever reason, toasted the American B-50 bomber that made the world's first nonstop flight around the world in 1949 with a wine of that year's vintage. A 65-year-old wine! That's just as good of a reason as any to commemorate anything.

I can imagine, based on various news reports, what they might have said over a 1949 vintage after midnight:

SL: I read somewhere that your favourite wine is Latour 61. That's pretty fancy stuff.

JK: I don't drink that much. My wife is the one who stocks all our wine cellars. And what about you and your whisky and chain-smoking!

SL: Yes, I do have certain vices, but they're pretty inexpensive compared with yours, and besides I need something to balance all the aggravation you people cause me.

As any diplomat would tell you, the No 1 rule among diplomats is that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies.

JK: What aggravation? You bring it upon yourselves.

SL: We do?! There's something psychopathic about your policies. You just don't care how they end up affecting everyone else. We, all of us in this world, need order, not chaos. At last we have a pseudo world order, an international order based on an interstate system. We respect that, you don't. You continue to undermine it.

JK: Look, unlike you, I've fought in a war and have three stars to show for it. I witnessed people getting massacred and even took part in it. I looked people in the face and shot them. I know all about the terrible cost of war and bloodshed, and that's why I am trying hard here to get us to agree on a diplomatic path in Syria and Ukraine.

OPINION: John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov - Fatal attraction I

SL: You're a sentimental idealist, my friend. You think it could all work out if we just talk about it. Well, it doesn't work that way. Believe me; I've been doing the talking for decades. It's just another way to cover up real intentions. But then you know that all too well.

JK: It doesn't have to be that way. By diplomacy we opened up a new page with Cuba, Myanmar, Iran and even with your Russia. My president understands the limits of our power and of military power.

SL: I'm not sure if you're actually convinced of what you're saying, because you have your troops deployed everywhere and you give yourself the right to bomb where you please: Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia to name only a few. Not to mention your worldwide drone strategy of bombings anything or anywhere we like!

OPINION: John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov - Fatal attraction II

JK: We are in the midst of a war on terror! You do remember 9/11, don't you?

SL: We're in the same boat. In fact, we could be more exposed to terrorism than you are.

JK: So let's agree on the right path to stabilise the situation in Syria, in order to focus on ISIL.

SL: Sure, but soon enough you'll be back on your 23-metre yacht and your mansions and penthouses, and I'll be here stuck with more talking about more of the same.

JK: That's all the more reason why we should make something out of our time - get things done. You have a partner.

SL: True, let's focus our energies on fighting ISIL. Why don't you then just agree with me that ISIL is the priority not Assad, and get it over with; my boss in the Kremlin is not about to change his mind. Yours is more amenable.

As any diplomat would tell you, the No 1 rule among diplomats is that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies.

They might bond and drink and speak of the world from their high towers, but both diplomats realise the limits of their influence. After all, they are representatives, and not architects of their countries' foreign policy. They both must answer to higher authority. And that is no panacea.

Coming up in the series on Kerry and Lavrov: Obama and Putin - Horrible bosses?

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera. Follow him on Facebook.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera