In a now famous speech delivered at the Conference on Security, held in Munich in 2007, Vladimir Putin harshly clarified the structural determinants of his foreign policy.
Let list them briefly: according to President Putin, Russia does not tolerate in any way the encirclement that the Atlantic Alliance carried out and still carries out at the edges of the old Warsaw Pact.
Putin is not even convinced – and his argument cannot be faulted – that the network of sensors, radars, ICBM missiles currently operating around the Federation is bound to manage “instability in the greater Middle East”.
Moreover, Putin believed, and still believes, that the international system should only be based on the lawfulness of the United Nations and the other global agencies rather than on NATO and EU only, as the Russian President said to the Italian Minister of Defence at that time.
Or on the coalitions of the willing that had unleashed – with adverse and unexpected effects – the US (and Saudi) actions in the First and Second Gulf War, by wiping out a Russian traditional ally, namely Iraq, to create the void of bands, gangs and regional powers on a territory turned into “no man’s land”, for oil in particular.
Putin still remembers when the Head of the US provisional government in Baghdad created a system for road signalling which was very similar to Boston’s.
For the Russian President, the American unipolarity is the warning sign of the strategic void at the edges of empires, with incalculable negative effects for the future strategy of global leaders, even the United States themselves.
Furthermore, again in Munich, Putin stated he was extremely interested in an agreement with the United States for the reduction of the ICBM missile systems, to be later extended also to other regional players.
It had to be a negotiation to be carried out in strictly bilateral terms and within the UN bodies, and not delegated to other regional alliances.
Hence a “conventionalization” of confrontation which, for the Russian President, avoids the constant nuclear threat and allows a significant reduction in military spending, which will no longer be targeted to an impossible bilateral and final post-cold war confrontation, but to the control and reduction of the peripheral clashes of the States placed in the Rimland, in the peripheries of the old opposing blocs.
Once again there is special attention paid by Russia to the destructive effects of a future unipolar world: no power alone can control the world but, if it does so, it generates polarizations paving the way for a terrible war.
In those years the Iran case was evident.
For Russia, the future world must be multipolar, especially at a time when the United States have lost their geo-economic primacy and hence, basically, globalization is over. Indeed, it must be put to an end.
And Europe? Will it wait for the crumbs of the TTIP, namely the still secret Treaty with the United States, to believe it can expand its economy or will it begin to really think big, which, indeed, should be its role at global geoeconomic level?
Finally, after some very harsh comments on the US behaviour, in Munich Putin said that the undue pressures to export “democracy” were, in fact, bad forms of interference, together with international NGOs, which produced the opposite effect.
This means weak and viable States which are at the mercy of expensive international aid, as well as Trojan horse of multinational companies that subsequently generate further social tensions which, in some cases, lead to the rooting of Islamist terrorism.
An objective and well-grounded analysis which – with Machiavellianism and the harshness of the Russian decision-makers, from Peter the Great to the current time – avoids the rhetoric of fierce “tyrants” by nature, or the curse of religious ideologies ad memoriam which only lead to jihadists’ hegemony.
In Munich as currently, courage was needed to create a linkage between the global economic disasters and jihadist terrorism, as well as between globalization, unipolar policies, and social and political destabilization in the world.
For Vladimir Putin, in substance, the unipolar world ended with the crisis of what we might define “the first globalization”, cornered by the expansion of China, the BRICS and the other new centres of independent economic and political development which, over time, saw the United States be bogged down in a financial crisis that was directly derived from the geopolitical and financial overstretch of the only winner of the Cold War.
Today, we realize that some of the Russian President’s prophecies have come true: China is expanding geo-economically beyond its borders, both with the One Road, One Belt initiative, which will lead to the economic development and geostrategic unification of the whole Asian Heartland, and with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is bound to turn from an “Asian EEC” into a real “Eastern NATO”.
The United States, with current President Obama and his successor after the elections, are leaving the Middle East to its fate. This, however, will also be the end of Europe.
The traditional American pendulum swinging between the “necessary power” to be spent everywhere and the “house on the hill”, between T. Roosevelt and Monroe doctrine of the ‘kitchen garden”, to be fully exploited up to its limits.
Even Israel, which with Prime Minister Netanyahu has refused a meeting with President Obama in Washington on March 18, has resumed its ties with Russia.
The Knesset, namely the Jewish State’s Parliament, paid a visit to Crimea early February, while the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has expressed his dissatisfaction with the new bilateral agreement between Israel and Turkey.
Israel follows its own Global Strategy, which is the repetition of the old divide and rule strategy in the Arab region, typical of the Cold War, and its natural ambition to become a regional power, now that the Islamic world discovers itself at war with all its many souls and powers.
Currently Israel closely monitors the defensive infrastructure along its Syrian border and, while at the beginning of hostilities, it thought that Bashar al-Assad was the ”weak link” of the pro-Iranian axis, the subsequent evolution of the strategic framework in Syria has meant that Israel has no longer plans to support the so-called “moderate rebels” – a stance at the time passively inherited from the United States.
Also the United States, with NATO, believed that the Russian support for the Arab Syrian Army would be technologically and strategically irrelevant but the reality, with the Baath covert networks already operating in Raqqa, the “Caliphate’s capital city”, and Assad’s forces a few kilometres away from that city and now placed all around Aleppo, the key to the link between Isis and Turkey, shows us a very different course of events.
With its actions in Syria, the Russian Federation has proved to be a credible opponent of the Atlantic Alliance, while NATO is now deprived of a strategy in the Middle East and the Maghreb region going beyond the old peacekeeping rhetoric.
Hence, a new Russian-Israeli axis is likely to materialize, also thanks to the Russian and Chinese investment in the Israeli hi-tech sector, which is the most advanced in the world.
A bond which, as already happened, fills the gaps left by the old North American hegemony, which now persists in maintaining pressures around China, so as to limit its terrestrial and maritime power projection, and encircle the Russian Federation, as in a resurgence of useless Cold War.
The Philippines have offered six new bases to the United States, while China has built its new base in Djibouti and America is establishing a network of Special Forces that, starting from Eurasia and China, is global for its outreach and use.
In this regard, it is worth recalling John Maynard Keynes’ witty remark according to which “the difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”.
The issue arises from Eurasia’ encirclement – that the Americans are pursuing – or from the Russian use of the Eurasian Heartland as hub for the expansion and hegemony of the new Russia (and current China led by Xi Jinping).
Today Putin is the most careful follower of the American geopolitician Spykman, one of the masters of the USSR containment, which attached priority to the “edges” of the world’s great continental land masses.
Furthermore, today both China and Russia tend to expand onto their “near abroad”, with a view to opposing the US unilateral order, both by means of the economy, considering China’s gradual relinquishment of its role as first buyer of US Treasury bonds, and with Russia’s “conquest” of the Middle East nerve centre.
Both new powers, which want to become the reference poles of a new multipolar world, are divesting dollars and buying gold, while now the current domestic imbalance in world markets enables China to sign contracts denominated in yuan-renminmbi with emerging countries and enables Russia to sell oil and gas to the small “third” powers and to China itself, thus offsetting the embargo imposed by the United States and Great Britain.
Hence a new distribution of world strategic polarities can be imagined in the near future.
It is an axis going from Russia, the Western strong point of the new Chinese Silk Road towards the Middle East, and the European Union, so as to oppose the pro-US Sunni axis in Syria, with a new independent role played by Israel.
Russia is still afraid of the US Global Strike, with or without NATO support.
Moreover, as early as the Munich Conference of 2007, Russia has attached essential importance to the decoupling between the Atlantic Alliance’s power, which Putin sees as part of the US global strategy and projection of US independent power.
Furthermore, the Russian Federation will at first be connected with India in a stable way, so as to expand its own international market, and later with the EU, which is currently undergoing a process of strategic separation from the United States, if and when Europe implements an effective foreign policy. Later it will head for the areas not yet penetrated by the Western bloc.
These areas are the Arctic, and the Russian share of the Antarctic, namely the primary aim of the Russian new maritime doctrine until 2020, and finally its “near abroad” that Russia sees destabilized by the doctrine of the US “colour revolutions”.
Moreover, NATO expansion is regarded by Russia as the primary threat to Russian strategic interests, in the new military doctrines followed by the Russian Armed Forces.
Hence destabilizing the Rimland of the great continental aggregates to directly hit Russia or China? Are Italy and the European Union really interested in doing so? I do not think so.
For the Russian strategic doctrine, a particular factor is the cultural and symbolic aspect.
Eurasianism is the mainstay of Russia’s geocultural issue.
The Soviet world has always seen cultural continuity between Western Europe and the “Third Rome” which, in the last Tzars’ political theology, was heir to the genuine tradition of a betrayed and forgotten West, in its deep and spiritual roots.
Even the Bolshevik revolution, long after Peter I and Tsar Alexander II, preserved the myth of equalizing, also violently, old Russia and its natural link with the Western spirit, merged with the popular and “oriental” traditions of the Narod, the Russian “people”, seen as the spiritual root of the Nation, of its specificity, but also of its heritage of merger between East and West.
Therefore, today, the philosophical Eurasia is a cultural and strategic model of autonomy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an attempt at cultural interconnection between the Eurasian peninsula and the Slavic Heartland.
All this, with a view to creating a geo-cultural and military “environment”, referring to a Russia which is still a great power capable of performing its function as a bridge between nations and traditional geopolitical areas, through the Russian spirit and its cultural autonomy.
Two Opposite Views of Alexei Navalny
The views of Alexei Navalny in Russia and in the United States are virtually opposites of each other.
In America, for example, on June 20th, the New York Times headlined “U.S. Preparing More Sanctions Against Russia, Sullivan Says”, and sub-headlined “The national security adviser raised the issue of more penalties in the poisoning of Aleksei A. Navalny days after President Biden met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.” The Hill online bannered “Sullivan says US preparing more Russia sanctions over Navalny”, and the “Best” or most popular of the many hundreds of reader-comments was “Putin is too chickenshvt to face Navalny in an election”. In other words, the view is: Putin is aiming to kill Navalny because Navalny represents democracy and Putin is the dictator. That is the dominant view of Navalny not only in the United States but in its allied countries.
In Russia, however, here is the dominant view:
An RT news-report on 1 February 2021 headlined “Top Navalny aide asked alleged British spy for millions in funding, intelligence video released by Russia’s FSB claims to reveal”. Back in 2012, Russia’s equivalent of America’s FBI had a hidden camera in position filming, and recording, Navalny’s top aide trying to persuade a person he thought to be an MI6 (UK’s CIA) agent that MI6 should annually donate tens of millions of dollars to Navalny’s organization because doing this would provide billions of dollars of benefit to UK corporations if Navalny would then succeed and become Russia’s leader.
Navalny is also known in Russia as a far-right ethnic supremacist. Here is a video that he posted to youtube on 19 September 2007, under the title of “НАРОД за легализацию оружия” meaning “PEOPLE for the legalization of weapons”
He was saying there that all Russians should get guns in order to kill Muslims who are infesting Russia, which would be like swatting big flies or stamping on big cockroaches. Later, he decided that demagoguing against Russia’s “corruption” was far likelier to win him the backing of the U.S and its allies than demagoguing against Russia’s Muslims would. This was when U.S.-and-allied ‘news’-media began presenting him as the ‘democratic’ alternative to Vladimir Putin, who has always been vastly more favorably viewed by Russians than Navalny has been. On 5 September 2020, right before the latest Russian Presidential election, the internationally respected Levada polling organization in Russia reported that the top choice of Russians to lead the country was Putin at 56%, the second-from-top choice was the nationalist Zhirinovsky at 5%, and Alexey Navalny (shown there as Алексей Навальный), was the third-from-top choice, at 2%. In the 2018 Presidential election, Zhirinovsky polled at 13.7%, Grudinin polled at 12.0%, and Putin polled at 72.6%. The actual election-outcome was Putin 76.69%, Grudinin 11.7%, and Zhirinovsky 5.65%. There were many polls and Navalny was never any serious contender for Russia’s Presidency. The U.S. regime lies as it usually does (at least about international matters).
That’s what Russians know about Navalny. And, of course, it’s very different from what the publics in U.S.-and-allied countries know (or, at least, believe) about him.
Here is some recent propaganda that’s published by U.S.-and-allied regimes about Navalny:
On May 22nd, Japan Times ran a Reuters report, “How Russia’s new gulag tries to break convicts like Alexei Navalny”.
On May 23rd, the Wall Street Journal headlined “Russia’s Navalny Fights to Stay in Public Eye in Putin Standoff”.
On May 4th, the Washington Post columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza headlined “Russia just took a big step back toward the Soviet Union”, and said: “Last week, for the first time since the Soviet era, the Kremlin officially classified opposition to its rule as a criminal offense. … Moscow prosecutors suspended the activities of the nationwide organization of Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent. Navalny is currently incarcerated in a prison camp after surviving a state-sponsored assassination attempt last year.”
Navalny, though he actually is favorably viewed by only around 2% of Russians (as indicated in polls there), is widely publicized in U.S.-and-allied media as having instead the highest support by the Russian people of anyone who might challenge Vladimir Putin for Russia’s leadership. It’s a lie, and always has been. Other politicians have far higher polled support in Russia. For example, a Russian poll conducted in the days following Alexey Navalny’s alleged novichok poisoning showed the following level of support for him then, if a Russian election for President would be held at that time: Vladimir Putin 56%, Vladimir Zhirinkovsky 5%. Alexei Navalny 2%. In the 2018 Presidential election, Zhirinovsky polled at 13.7%, Grudinin polled at 12.0%, and Putin polled at 72.6%. The actual election-outcome was Putin 76.69%, Grudinin 11.7%, and Zhirinovsky 5.65%. There were many polls and Navalny was never any serious contender for Russia’s Presidency. The U.S. regime lies as it usually does (at least about international matters), such as about “Saddam’s WMD.”
To say that Navalny has enough public supporters for him to have become elected as Russia’s President is like alleging that the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke had enough public supporters for him to have become elected as America’s President. That’s how much U.S.-and-allied ‘news’-media lie.
This news-report is submitted for publication to virtually all English-language newsmedia. A Web-search for its headline will show which ones have published it.
Fragile Stabilisation of Confrontation
Prospects for relations between Russia and the United States after the summit in Geneva
The Russia-US summit in Geneva will certainly not lead to a qualitative improvement in Russian-American relations and will not be able to initiate a process that would lead to a change of their confrontational nature within the next several years. This is impossible, due to the systemic nature of the confrontation between Russia and the United States. Overcoming this would require one or both sides to fundamentally change their approach to the international order and their place in it; a strong bipartisan anti-Russian consensus persists among the American political elite and establishment, despite an acute polarisation of the political system in the USA.
The task of the Geneva summit is different: to stabilise the Russian-American confrontation, to put an end to its unhealthy nature and uncontrollable course of recent years, and to form a model of relations in which the parties, despite considering each other as opponents and even enemies, nevertheless will try not to cross each other’s red lines. They also can develop selective cooperation on those issues where it is expedient for their national interests and where this cooperation does not require significant concessions. This model can be defined as controlled or disciplined confrontation.
The main reason that the summit in Geneva is taking place is that the further escalation of the Russian-American confrontation would otherwise undoubtedly lead to an even greater aggravation of the Ukrainian conflict, the situation around Belarus and a large-scale spiral of the arms race. This does not correspond to either Russian or American interests (as they are understood by the Biden administration).
For Russia, such an escalation would be fraught with the emergence of anti-Russian sanctions to a qualitatively new level, the need to increase military spending (today the Russian leadership is cutting defence spending and is proud of it), and an even greater deterioration in relations with European and Asian allies and partners of the United States (not only with the EU as a whole). It would also lead to the further strengthening of Russia’s asymmetric dependence on China, not to mention the humanitarian consequences of a new escalation of the war in eastern Ukraine and the increased risk of a direct military clash with the United States and NATO as a whole. Moscow, obviously, would like to avoid all this.
The interest of the Biden administration in stabilising the confrontation with Moscow is connected, firstly, with the Chinese factor. Since January this year, it became finally clear that the confrontation between Washington and Beijing, which was launched under Trump, is irreversible, systemic and existential for both sides, and therefore it is deeper and more long-term than the confrontation between the United States and Russia. Contrary to the hopes of many observers, there was no detente in US-China relations, and the Biden administration has made it clear that it regards China, and not Russia, as its main strategic rival and adversary.
At the same time, Washington is gradually understanding the limitations of its own resources and the need to concentrate on the Pacific sphere; a vivid example is the Biden administration’s desire to limit the obligations and presence of the United States in the Middle East. The White House also sees further rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow, which has increased in tandem with their opposition to the United States, as undesirable. As a result, the Biden administration seeks to stabilise the “Russian front” in order not to be distracted and to be able to throw as many resources as possible at the “Chinese front”.
Second, as the events of this spring have proved, the Biden administration, on the one hand, is not ready to invest serious material resources in containing Russia in the post-Soviet space, and even less enthusiastic about going to war with Russia because of such countries as Ukraine and Georgia. On the other hand, Washington would not like to witness the termination of their statehood.
The stabilisation of confrontation does not at all mean the resolution of the most acute conflicts and contradictions in Russian-American relations. The contradictions around Ukraine, Syria, Belarus, mutual allegations of interference in internal political affairs, Russia’s accusations of illegal hostile activities and even a “hybrid war” against the Western countries will most likely not be reduced following the summit. The prospect of a fundamental change in the foreign policy of Russia and the United States and serious compromises between them is still absent. Such compromises would be reasonably viewed by both sides as steps towards a strategic defeat, which for the time being is completely ruled out by both Moscow and Washington. In this regard, the stabilisation of the confrontation does not mean the resolution of these contradictions, but the absence of their further escalation.
At the same time, this stabilisation requires understanding, and, most importantly, respect for each other’s red lines. There is no doubt that these red lines will be discussed in Geneva. The ability of the parties to recognise and adhere to them is doubtful, especially in the longer term. For example, the United States will not only not give up open support for Russia’s domestic opposition in the near future, but will increase criticism of the Kremlin over internal political issues in the event of new protests. The parties will also not come to an agreement on what “Russian interference” in America’s internal political processes entail, and where the “red lines” are. Finally, there are great risks of destabilisation of many of the above crises “from below”, contrary to the wishes of Moscow or Washington. For example, the Ukrainian or Belarusian crises, which will inevitably entail a new round of confrontation and complicate interaction on other issues as well. Therefore, the stabilisation of confrontation, which is likely to follow the summit in Geneva, will be very fragile.
The second most important result of the summit is likely to be the launch of selective cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats on issues where it is beneficial to both parties and does not require qualitative concessions from the parties. This, in turn, will mean a significant improvement in Russian-American relations compared to the state in which they have been for the past several years. Namely, building a policy towards each other based on national interests and national security considerations, as well as the ability to combine rivalry and cooperation where it is necessary and beneficial.
In recent years, this was impossible. Under Trump, the Russian factor became one of the main instruments of America’s internal political struggle, and US policy towards Russia was determined by domestic political considerations to a much greater extent than foreign policy itself. This ruled out any constructive interaction in principle. The White House was forced to constantly prove that it was not a “Kremlin puppet”, and Congress sought to weaken Trump’s ability to determine US foreign policy, making confrontation with Russia irreversible. Coupled with the Republicans’ traditional preference for maximum freedom in defence policy and the desire to put pressure on opponents with the threat of an arms race, this led to the fact that by the end of 2020 the Russian-American agenda virtually disappeared, and the mechanisms of relations (summits, diplomatic dialogue) collapsed. An illustration of the latter is the diplomatic war that has been going on for more than four years, the recall of ambassadors and the actual paralysis of consular relations.
Today the situation is gradually improving. Although Russia still remains a factor in the American internal political struggle (and will remain so as long as the polarisation of the US political system persists), the scale of the politicisation of the Russian factor has significantly decreased since the end of the Trump period. Biden’s foreign policy does not provoke resistance, at least from his own administration, bureaucracy and among Democrats, and in any case he cannot be accused of any sympathy for the Russian president. Moreover, the Biden administration does not view the arms race as a preferential instrument of confrontation with Russia and does not seek the complete destruction of the remnants of the arms control system. Finally, the Biden administration perceives transnational challenges and threats (climate change, the pandemic, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, etc.) as significantly more important in the hierarchy of threats to national security, and prefers a multilateral approach to their solution.
All this creates the preconditions for selective cooperation with Russia on issues where both sides consider this cooperation necessary and beneficial for themselves.
First of all, the result of the Geneva summit may be the launch of broad Russian-American consultations on strategic stability: how to adapt the system to the qualitatively changed military-strategic landscape and what to do after the already-extended START-3 Treaty (the last traditional instrument for nuclear missile control) expires in 2026.
The parties are unlikely to come to a new “big” agreement in the near future on the limitation and even the further reduction of nuclear weapons to replace the START Treaty. Moreover, it is extremely inappropriate to start such negotiations: the positions of the parties differ so much that it is impossible to successfully complete such negotiations. It is unlikely that it will be possible for them to reach an agreement on the deployment of ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles in Europe. Nevertheless, a full-scale dialogue between the two nuclear superpowers on all aspects of strategic stability (which has long entailed more than nuclear weapons alone) is extremely expedient. It includes the discussion of how they understand the threat of a nuclear war amid new military-technological and geopolitical conditions, as well as the development of more stringent rules of conduct in the military-strategic sphere, mechanisms of conflict prevention and de-conflicting.
The second area of selective cooperation between Russia and the United States after the Geneva summit is cybersecurity, which includes four main aspects: the fight against cybercrime, the use of ICT as a military tool, interference in each other’s internal affairs using the Internet, social networks, hacking, etc., and cyber espionage. On the first aspect, the intensification of Russian-American cooperation is most likely. The second aspect relates to the military security and strategic stability (with the help of cyber means it is possible to inflict damage comparable to the use of nuclear weapons, or to disarm or “blind” the enemy during a military crisis). Here it is important at least to determine the red lines (to agree on what infrastructure should not be subject to cyberattacks under any circumstances), develop the rules of the game and create de-conflicting mechanisms and “hot lines” in the event of a crisis. This will not be easy, but it is extremely necessary: properly in the cyberspace that the risk of an unintentional military conflict with its further escalation up to a nuclear war is the highest. On the third and fourth aspects, reaching any agreements in the foreseeable future is extremely unlikely.
The third area of cooperation is the intensification of interaction on the nuclear programmes of Iran and the DPRK, especially in the context of the Biden administration’s desire to restore, in one form or another, a multilateral deal on the Iranian nuclear programme and to abandon the practice of bilateral negotiations, especially summits with Pyongyang, used by Donald Trump.
The fourth area of possible cooperation between Russia and the United States is environmental protection and the fight against climate change, which are positioned as one of the most important priorities of the Biden administration and are taking an increasingly important role in Russian foreign policy. Here the parties have something to talk about globally and locally. For example, the United States may suffer from the introduction of the EU carbon border adjustment mechanism (border adjustment carbon tax) within the framework of the European Green Deal, no less and even more than Russia. In the common interests of Moscow and Washington is the creation, as an alternative, of some kind of global mechanism aimed at reducing carbon emissions primarily where it is most beneficial for both countries.
However, the main object of possible cooperation between Moscow and Washington on environmental issues and climate change is the Arctic. In this region, Russia and the United States are part of a shared ‘neighbourhood’, where the rate of climate change is 3-4 times higher than the global average, and where the environmental, socio-economic and foreign policy consequences of this change are the most widespread. The fragile Arctic ecosystem, its infrastructure built on permafrost, and the traditional way of life of the indigenous peoples of the North are under threat of destruction. Moreover, the melting ice of the Arctic contributes to the overflow of the US-Russia and US-China confrontation – the perception of the region, as indicated in the 2019 Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, as “an avenue for great power competition and aggression”. As a result, the militarisation of the Arctic is increasing alongside the risk of disasters and military clashes, impeding the economic development of the region. Cooperation between Russia and the United States in protecting the environment in the Arctic is the only factor that can, if not slow down, then at least compensate for these negative trends, combating climate change amid even greater acceleration, addressing the melting permafrost (it is fraught with large-scale methane emissions) and adapting to new climatic conditions in the region.
Finally, the fifth area of possible cooperation between Russia and the United States after the Geneva summit is a “truce” in the diplomatic war and the return of ambassadors to Washington and Moscow, respectively. This is perhaps the easiest and most feasible decision that can be expected from the summit and implemented in the short term.
A distinctive feature of this agenda, which is important for understanding the nature of the managed Russian-American confrontation, is that the beginning of a dialogue on these topics does not require any serious concessions from the parties. This is the most important prerequisite for this cooperation. Moreover, this cooperation should not be seen as a way to improve relations between Russia and the United States. This is generally not on the agenda in the foreseeable future. The meaning of cooperation is to understand Russian and American national interests, which in the indicated areas cannot be realised in other ways, even despite the fact that the parties generally regard each other as opponents.
From our partner RIAC
Modest results of the meeting in Geneva
Presidents Joseph Biden and Vladimir Putin met in Geneva on Wednesday, June 16. Both separately noted that the talks went well. “There’s been no hostility,” Putin said. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.” Biden meanwhile declared “the tone of the entire meeting… was good. Positive.”
The spirit may have been constructive and the tone positive, but no major step forward was made to reset the chronically strained relations between Moscow and Washington. Although the meeting went as well as could be expected, major differences remain on a range of issues, including cyberattacks and human rights.
Putin rejected accusations Russia was involved in cyberattacks against U.S. institutions and declared that the U.S. government was the main offender in this area. On human rights he said that the U.S. supports opposition groups in Russia in order to weaken it, since Washington openly sees Russia as an adversary. Putin reiterated that Moscow did not see domestic politics as up for negotiation or discussion. He also said that pro-Trump demonstrators who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were merely expressing reasonable political demands, for which they now faced punitive jail terms.
For his part Biden ensured the summit would be seen as the opposite of Donald Trump’s notably cordial meeting with Putin in Helsinki three years ago. He said that he had pressed the Russian leader on a range of issues, such as human rights, and that he would continue doing so. “No President of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view,” Biden said he told Putin. “That’s just part of the DNA of our country… It’s about who we are.”
On the modest plus side the two leaders agreed that their ambassadors, who were recalled amid the rising tensions, should return to their posts in the near future. In addition, the U.S. and Russia would start “consultations” on cyber-related issues. As for the overall tone of the meeting, the Russian president paraphrased Leo Tolstoy by saying “there is no happiness in life only glimmers of it. Cherish them.”
“I think that in this situation, there can’t be any kind of family trust,” Putin concluded. “But I think we’ve seen some glimmers.”
Media commentary around the world reflected one common theme: at least it is reassuring that there is a dialogue. “The US-Russian summit in Geneva confirmed the low expectations for the meeting,” commented the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland’s leading daily:
There were hardly any concrete agreements, but at least the American president is no longer inviting attack from his Russian counterpart. The chorus of commentators was pretty unanimous in the run-up to the summit from Moscow to Washington: There was no significant room for concessions or a change of strategy, either on the American or on the Russian side. The expectations therefore had to be set extremely low.
These low expectations were noted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as well, which found it encouraging that the meeting lasted considerably longer than expected. The paper also thought it a hopeful sign that “the Russian President, who had already made the Pope and the British [sic!] Queen wait, arrived on time.”
“The summit flowed along conventional diplomatic lines:” wrote The Guardian; “a handshake, several hours of intensive talks and separate press conferences afterwards. The ghost of Helsinki was exorcised.” According to the British daily, the obvious and easy “deliverables” were achieved:
“One was to normalise the situation of Russia and America’s ambassadors…
“There will also be consultations between the US state department and the Russian foreign ministry on a range of issues including the Start III nuclear treaty, due to expire in 2024, and cybersecurity.”
The Russian media, unlike their Western counterparts, emphasize that one area of agreement in Geneva concerned the implementation of the Minsk agreements. The daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta noted Putin’s statement that Biden agreed with him that the Minsk agreements should be at the heart of the settlement in Ukraine. Quoting Peter Kuznick, professor of history at American University, the paper notes the summit was an important step in the right direction for both sides. No one expected a breakthrough, he said, but the two leaders respectfully and clearly indicated their interest in finding possible areas of common interest:
Both presidents understood each other’s ‘red lines’ and marked them more clearly. Their summaries after the meeting did not contradict, but rather emphasized and complemented each other. It seems to me that Putin was speaking to the whole world, while Biden spoke more to an audience within America, with an emphasis on human rights.
Considering the current state of bilateral relations, the Geneva summit is the maximum that could be expected. All that was deemed possible, but not obligatory, did happen, Professor Fyodor Lukyanov of Moscow’s School of Economics noted.
The conversation was businesslike and informative. This means that from the insane phase we’ve had in recent years, with normal relationship replaced by sheer hysteria, we are moving into a phase of more structured rivalry… The summit only outlined a way out of the impasse. Now we have to do all the work that is normally done before the summit. Since it was not done this time, solid steps will be prepared for some future milestone.
Prior to this meeting, Washington strengthened Russophobic sentiments in countries that follow American foreign policy. The peak of Russophobia was represented by the events in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, but also by a number of other states which adjust it`s foreign policy to Washington’s foreign policy. Bearing in mind that at the moment relations between Washington and Moscow are not friendly, under American command, that kind of states accuse Russia constantly, including for events that happened years ago.
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