Author: Natig NAZIMOGHLU
Relations between the two largest nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, deteriorate intensively. Apparently, this trend will accelerate with the new Biden administration in Washington. Thus, the poor dialogue between Washington and Moscow - power centres with a special historical responsibility for the future of global peace and security – can intensify tensions on the international arena.
The serious and smart
Harsh statements of the US President Joe Biden on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin provoked another crisis in the US-Russian relations. In his interview with ABCNews, the American president said that he was not shy of punishing Russia for "meddling with the American elections" gave an affirmative answer to the question of whether Putin was a killer.
Obviously, such a challenge from Biden could not go unnoticed in Russia. Putin’s response to the American president was like "look who’s talking!" but slightly more in the context of "we always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are."
Leading Russian statesmen and politicians criticised Biden's statements even harder. Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin said that any attacks on the head of state are attacks on the country, and therefore Biden insulted the citizens of Russia. Spokesman of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov called Biden’s statements "very bad". Amid the unprecedented statements by Biden and response from the Russian side, Moscow's diplomatic move was no less provocative: Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov was called back to Russia for consultations.
Were the statements of the US President addressed to the Russian leader only a product of his momentary negligence? Were these accusative statements a deliberate action that fits well into the logic of Washington's current approach to relations with Moscow?
Incidentally, not only Biden is known for harsh statements about Putin. This was typical, in particular, of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president. Similar statements were made by other high-ranking American figures, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. It’s interesting, however, that the White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t even attempt to mitigate the effect caused by President Biden's anti-Putin remarks. She made it clear that President Biden did not regret his words, since "the president gave a direct answer to a direct question."
Thus, the attack by the US president against his Russian counterpart cannot be considered an accidental misunderstanding. Especially since we know that Biden has a reputation not as a hot-tempered ‘smarty pants’ but as an experienced politician who knows the value of his own words. Therefore, the sensational interview with Biden quite explicitly reflects the current level of US-Russian relations, which can lead to a possible break in the bilateral dialogue.
Biden's refusal to have an open conversation with Putin can also be called an evidence of disappointing relations between Washington and Moscow, not to mention that such a public dialogue would be undesirable for the entire world community, given the role of the US and Russia in global politics. The White House statement alluded to the extremely busy agenda of President Biden as a reason not to join the dialogue. But, most likely, Biden simply could not accept Putin's challenge without damaging the reputation of American leaders, who during the decades of hegemonism, have been used to dictate only their own conditions without accepting the views of others.
The great and influential
The Biden administration stepped in the White House at a rather significant moment in the history of the United States and the existing world order. This is the moment when we see the break of the conventional concept of unipolar American leadership, which cannot be prevented by periodically replacing American presidents. However, like any other superpower, the US with try to delay its degression by all means, creating serious problems for the implementation of the strategic goals of its main rivals. Americans have already given corresponding titles to the latter, such as "the key enemy" for China and "real enemy" for Russia.
Despite the rising global influence of China mainly due to its economic expansion, it is assumed that the US will continue to consider Russia as its equal in terms of the military potential and as “a number one obstacle" on the international arena. This factor becomes increasingly popular in the activities of the Biden administration.
Remarkably, the day after the scandalous interview with the US President, the US Congress approved Biden’s nominee for the post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was William Burns, a former American ambassador to Russia, now serving as the first diplomat in the US history to head a foreign intelligence office. Back in 2017, Burns warned that "Russia is still too big, proud and powerful to be ignored, and it is still the only nuclear power comparable to the United States." Apparently, the new director of the CIA intends to make every possible effort to counter the ‘Russian threat’.
Apparently, the Biden administration views diminishing the Russian influence that has noticeably increased in recent years as its key strategic task. President Biden accuses the previous American President Donald Trump of indulging in this. The new US administration clearly wants to squeeze Russia out from the key regional location along the entire perimeter of global confrontation, including the Middle East, South Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asia, the Pacific, North and Central Africa, Latin America. It seems that in order to achieve this goal, the Biden administration will adopt the offensive political approach of Burns: to practice "small steps and verified schemes instead of loud actions and military threats."
Whether the current American administration substantial succeeds in implementing such an "anti-Russian project" is a different question. But there is no doubt that the US views Russia as a key target. The same rhetoric and idea are applied to the Russian president, presenting him as the "Russian evil" threatening Washington's interests. President Biden ascertained this in his expressive response to the provocative question of the interviewer. The word "ascertained" best fits for the assessment of Biden's scandalous remark, given that the world media have already called Putin the "killer" and "destroyer" of American plans of total global hegemony.
Tactical sanctions and strategical weapons
Obviously, the US will continue to use sanctions as the most important tool to counter Russian policies. A new package of sanctions came into effect on March 18 in response to the "poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny." In fact, they echo the restrictions imposed by the previous US administration in 2018, following the poisoning of the former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The new package includes, in particular, the tightening of restrictions on the export to Russia of American goods and technologies significant in terms of the US national security. In other words, American authorities will now review the vast majority of applications from American suppliers for a license to export or re-export their goods and services to Russia from the position of refusal, since such goods may be considered ‘dual use goods’. This also applies to some exceptions to previous restrictions, such as spare parts for equipment, which could previously be supplied without a license. It turns out that now Russian companies using high-tech American products will not be able to service them in the event of a breakdown.
Russia regarded these American actions as an attempt to interfere in internal affairs, using "a deliberate provocation with the alleged poisoning of Navalny with some kind of chemical substance” as a pretext. Meanwhile, the Biden administration made it clear that sanctions "over the poisoning of Navalny" will be followed by others, in particular for alleged Russian interference in the 2020 US presidential election.
Such moves mean that the dialogue between the US and Russia will continue to slide towards a significant limitation of contacts and ties. In terms of ensuring global peace and security, fortunately, Joe Biden, unlike the previous US president, extended for another five years the treaty on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive weapons (START-3), which is the only Russian-American agreement on nuclear deterrence in effect.
But will START-3 succeed in strengthening peace and security throughout the world from a strategic perspective? Unfortunately, the current level of relations between the two largest nuclear powers does not make it possible to give an unequivocally positive answer to this question.