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Secretary of State John Kerry meets his Russian counterpart for two days of talks beginning on Thursday in Geneva to discuss the viability of Russia's plan to disarm Syria of its stockpile of chemical weapons.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said there is "a realistic chance" something specific will come of the high-stakes diplomatic mission.
But the recent diplomatic option would not even be on the table, said Albright, if the United States had not first threatened a military strike against Syria.
"This is the way that diplomacy works. You use the threat of the use of force to get some action in diplomacy, and then diplomacy just to figure out what you do about the threat of the use of force," said Albright.
Which would make Russian President Vladimir Putin's insistence that the United States remove that threat one of the biggest hurdles to reaching a diplomatic solution.
Kerry cannot give up the threat of force, said Albright.
"One of the things I know from trying to get Security Council resolutions is that they take a while," said Albright. "But my personal feeling here is that it is that threat of the use of force, and the president made very clear that our ships would stay in the area, and that the use of force would stay on the table."
Kerry will be negotiating with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Thursday and Friday, a man Albright knows well from their time together at the United Nations.
"He's many different things. He is very smart. He also does know U.N. procedure very well. He can be very nice and practical. And he can be the opposite," said Albright.
"What we all have to understand is that this is going to be a complicated process. The whole issue in Syria has been unbelievably difficult, and hard, really, for us to figure out exactly where our leverage and purchase can be," said Albright.
Al-Assad has to agree to the diplomatic solution, said Albright, adding that there has already been some progress in getting Syria and Russia to admit to something that has been denied repeatedly in the past.
"The Syrian government has now agreed to let the U.N. take control of chemical weapons that they said they didn't have, and President Putin has all of a sudden suggested that this happened over something that he said never happened," said Albright.
And while many in the U.S. are wary of trusting Russia, Albright said there are several reasons Russia wants to broker this diplomatic solution.
"They're nervous themselves about terrorists and chemical weapons and what that might do in certain areas of Russia, (like) Chechnya," said Albright. And "Putin has been looking for a way to kind of re-equalize himself in terms of being a major power, and frankly they do not want us to strike."
For more of our interview with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, click on the video above.