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What’s Everything That Biden & Putin Have To Discuss?

15 APRIL 2021

What

The American and Russian Presidents have a slew of issues to discuss in the event that they meet in person sometime in the coming future like Biden proposed doing during their last phone conversation, but the most important topics on the itinerary would arguably be strategic security and peacefully resolving the conflicts in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Biden-Putin Summit Plans

Russian-American tensions are at an historic high for the post-1991 period so it’s sensible that President Biden proposed to hold an in-person meeting with his Russian counterpart during their last phone conversation in order “to discuss the full range of issues” facing their countries. The most important topics on the itinerary would arguably be strategic security and peacefully resolving the long-running conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine, but other issues would of course also be brought up. What follows is a list of the most pressing problems between these two Great Powers in the order of their significance. Each point includes a summary of their respective positions and what a compromise might look like if one’s realistically possible:

Strategic Security

The White House’s readout of their call noted “the intent of the United States and Russia to pursue a strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues, building on the extension of the New START Treaty”, which was reflected by the Kremlin also referencing “strategic stability and arms control”. Both countries therefore share the common desire to build upon the New START Treaty’s last-minute extension in February, though it’s unclear in what direction this might go. The prior US administration demanded that China join all such forthcoming talks while Russia respects Beijing’s right not to do so. The ideal scenario would be if all relevant powers made proportionate cuts to their pertinent arsenals, but that might not be realistic.

Ukraine

This hot button issue concerns more than just politically resolving the Eastern European country’s civil war in line with the Minsk Accords that US-backed Kiev has thus far refused to implement despite previously agreeing to them. It also involves NATO’s aggressive forward posturing in the region and its support for Ukraine’s anti-Russian activities, including against Crimea. The situation is so tense at the moment that a war might even break out before the Russian and American leaders meet, with the subsequently feared brinksmanship potentially serving as the reason to expedite their summit plans. The best-case scenario would be if the US assesses the seriousness of the situation and finally pressures Kiev to implement the Minsk Accords.

Afghanistan

The Kremlin’s readout reported “the situation in Afghanistan”, which was missing from the White House’s, but this issue will likely be at the fore of their discussions considering that the US plans to fully withdraw from that country by 9/11 this year. Both Great Powers have recently seen their positions converge insofar as supporting an inclusive transitional government in which the officially terrorist-designated Taliban participates as the only pragmatic political outcome of the conflict. The challenge is that the Taliban reacted negatively to the US’ announcement that it’ll miss its originally scheduled deadline for withdrawing by 1 May, so it remains to be seen whether the fragile ceasefire between those two holds long enough for the meeting to occur.

Syria

Syria didn’t warrant a mention on either government’s readout so it’s unclear whether it was brought up during their last discussion, but it’s nevertheless a major issue between them that can’t be ignored. The US retains occupation forces in the northeast beyond the de facto “internal partition” line of the Euphrates River, and its widely reported support of terrorist forces in the country is a major impediment to the conflict’s resolution. Moreover, the US’ political proxies have hitherto obstructed the parallel peace processes, so something must be done in order to make progress on these tracks. The only realistic compromise would be “decentralization” and Damascus requesting Iran’s dignified but phased withdrawal from the country, but the latter still seems unlikely.

China

The US is slowly realizing that it made a major mistake by triggering Russia’s historical siege mentality, pushing it closer to China in response, and provoking Moscow to actively seek Washington’s containment all across the world. Even a simple thought exercise embracing the US’ infamous zero-sum outlook on International Relations suggests that this works out to America’s grand strategic disadvantage while being one of the best-ever scenarios for China. Accordingly, Biden’s team might attempt to court Russia into reversing its recent American-provoked foreign policy pivot so as to restore Moscow’s traditional “balancing” act between East and West, but this outcome is only possible in the event credible progress is made on a “New Detente”.

Iran

The Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is another major issue of disagreement between the US and Russia, but one which also attracts their interest more than ever after Iran recently clinched a 25-year strategic partnership deal with China. That agreement stands the chance to revolutionize the greater region’s geostrategic situation through the expansion of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) to West Asia via W-CPEC+, which was an unexpected game-changing development that seemingly caught both the US and Russia off guard. Not only will they seek to address the immediate nuclear-related issue, but they might also discuss ways to manage this new regional geostrategic reality, perhaps in an indirectly joint way if they make progress on a “New Detente”.

Palestine

The so-called “Mideast Peace Process” (MEPP) is also an area of mutual concern for Russia and the US. Both Great Powers are also allied with “Israel” to different extents, with Russia’s largely under-discussed relationship being the result of skillful policymaking at the presidential level through Putin’s personal diplomacy with his close friend Prime Minister Netanyahu (background context herehereherehere, and here). Since Biden is attempting to balance the US’ regional relationships a bit more than Trump did, it’s possible that he’ll walk back his predecessor’s so-called “Deal of the Century” and thus help pave the way for his country and Russia to jointly herald at least the symbolic creation of a Palestinian state, though it’ll still take a while for this to occur.

Russiagate/Navalny/Climate

Biden will almost certainly bring up the discredited Russiagate conspiracy theory due to domestic pressure from his base. This speculative aspect of their discussion would be entirely symbolic since it’s what many have rightly called a “nothingburger”. It’ll only be talked about for appearance’s sake, the same as Navalny‘s imprisonment might too if that’s even brought up that is. As for climate change, this is a “neutral” means through which the two could at least superficially cooperate more closely and result in a semi-tangibly positive outcome to their planned summit. Both of their leaders agree on the need to thwart this threat, but there really isn’t much that they can do together. Still, it could make for some good headlines if they release a joint statement about it.


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Russian-American Relations Under Biden: More Of The Same Except For One Thing

Russian-American Relations Under Biden: More Of The Same Except For One Thing

26 JANUARY 2021

Russian-American Relations Under Biden: More Of The Same Except For One Thing

Russian-American relations will remain just as bad under Biden as they were under Trump except for the 46th President’s desire to extend the New START for another five years as part of an implied nuclear detente with Moscow after his administration also announced that it’ll investigate the Eurasian Great Power for alleged cyberspying, interfering in last year’s elections, poisoning anti-corruption blogged and accused US intelligence asset Navalny, and putting out bounties on American servicemen in Afghanistan.

A Nuclear Detente

The Biden Administration inherited plenty of messes at home and abroad that it plans to clean up during the next four years, but it nevertheless still aspires to continue Trump’s policy of unprecedentedly hostile relations with Russia. The only exception to the latter vision is its desire to extent the New START for another five years, which was done not as an olive branch to the Eurasian Great Power, but out of simple pragmatism because the US has its hands full dealing with all sorts of other challenges that it might not be able to pull everything off that it wants to if it’s mired in an increasingly intense New Arms Race with Russia too. This nuclear detente of sorts comes with strings attached, however, since the Biden Administration also announced that it’ll investigate the Kremlin for alleged cyberspying, interfering in last year’s elections, poisoning anti-corruption blogger and accused US intelligence asset Navalny, and putting out bounties on American servicemen in Afghanistan.

Cyberspying

Regarding the first of these allegations, it was the general consensus in the former Trump Administration that Russia was responsible for the SolarWinds cyber breach, though the Commander-in-Chief at the time publicly speculated that China might have actually been the culprit. As of now, no conclusive evidence one way or another has been publicly presented so it might have even been North Korea for all that anyone knows. Either way, those accusations conformed to the pattern of blaming Russia for everything that goes wrong in the US, which is politically convenient for its de facto one-party governing elite. As is now seen, that won’t stop with the advent of a new administration but will likely continue for the indefinite future since the political Russophobes who staff the Biden team have even more of a reason to keep this debunked myth alive. Going forward, it cane be expected that they’ll blame Russia for any future cyber attacks as well.

Meddling

On the second topic of supposed Russian interference in last year’s elections, nothing of concrete substance has ever been determined. It certainly seems to have been the case that a Russiagate 2.0 narrative was being preemptively manufactured in order to explain the possible scenario of Trump’s electoral victory, but the contentious outcome of the vote which decisively pushed Biden ahead in the dead of the night at the very last minute ensured that such a fallback plan didn’t have to be relied upon. It might very well be that the Biden Administration amplifies the fake news accusations from last summer about sites such as OneWorld meddling in the vote through purported COVID-19 “disinformation” — which never happened in reality — in order to artificially produce yet another false pretext for censoring social media, among other dark scenarios. In any case, this is the least original of the strings that Biden is attaching to his implied nuclear detente with Russia.

Navalny

Moving along, the next topic being investigated are the Western Mainstream Media allegations that Russia poisoned anti-corruption blogger and accused US intelligence asset Navalny. This individual recently returned to Russia from Berlin where he was receiving treatment for his mysterious illness, after which he was promptly arrested for violating his probation. The Biden Administration is trying to assemble a so-called “Alliance of Democracies” to strengthen the US’ global network of partnerships in Eurasia, to which end it’ll probably seek to portray Navalny as the poster child for generating intense interest among its potential members to work closer together in pursuit of this ideological end. The real purpose, however, is to establish closer socio-political and intelligence ties between NATO, the GCC+ (the “+” refers to Egypt, “Israel”, and Jordan), and the Quad, ideally on an anti-Russian basis. Some of the US’ relevant partners like India and “Israel” already enjoy excellent and almost allied-liked ties with Russia, however, so this scheme will only go so far with them.

Afghanistan

Finally, the last of the four strings attached to Biden’s implied nuclear detente is to investigate last summer’s Russian bounty scandal in Afghanistan. Moscow does indeed have political contacts with the Taliban for pragmatic reasons related to the peace process and countering ISIS’ spread in Afghanistan even though the Kremlin officially regards the organization as a banned terrorist group, but it certainly never conspired with it to endanger the lives of American servicemen. The revival of this long-discredited narrative speaks to the Biden Administration’s willingness to play the Russian card in the Afghan file for the purpose of delaying, if not reversing to an undetermined but presumably low extent, the former Trump Administration’s military drawdown from that country. It shouldn’t be taken seriously in any sense other than looked at as a “publicly plausible” pretext for his team to present to the American people for justifying those possible decisions. Even so, it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll resort to an Obama-like “surge” in that scenario.

Concluding Thoughts

Altogether, it’s clear that Biden’s implied nuclear detente with Russia comes with four very important strings attached, but the Kremlin is likely to tacitly accept them no matter how much it might publicly grumble about the unnecessary and irrelevant politicization of this important global strategic security decision. The fact of the matter is that when all things are considered, the outcome of extending the New START for another five years far outweighs the other four issues that the US wants to exploit in terms of the overall global good that the former will lead to. It would of course be ideal if the Biden Administration didn’t attach any strings to its implied nuclear detente with Russia, but there was never any realistic chance that it could be any other way, especially since his team is comprised of political Russophobes who just spent the past four years obsessively pushing the discredited fake news infowar narrative that Trump was Putin’s puppet. Thus, there was no way that they’d be able to pursue a nuclear detente with Russia without pressuring it elsewhere on false pretexts.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Biden, New START, Cyberspying, Navalny, Afghanistan, Infowars.


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