Destabilizing speculation

Biden, Putin to meet in Geneva with US-Russian ties close to all-time low

As the G-7 summit kicks off, the action takes place in Cornwall, England, but all eyes are on Geneva. It is there that President Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin one-on-one next week, at a time when many experts say bilateral ties are at an all-time low.

“It’s a meeting in Switzerland in a neutral country. It’s a typical Cold War summit,” said Anna Zafesova, journalist and political scientist of Italian origin. “When you go to meet in Switzerland, it’s because you’re enemies, you’re not friends. It’s not a cooperation summit. It’s a summit about how you don’t make yourself. too much harm, ”she told Fox News.

“I think it’s a paradox, but it could be even easier because you don’t have to try to be friends.”

The two leaders will meet face to face on June 16.
(AP / Photo illustration)

There is a lot of buzz and speculation about what may or may not be achievable at the June 16 meeting.


Zafesova pointed out that the meetings between Vladimir Putin and former President Trump failed because the two were trying to be friends and that never happened.

Political analyst Andrei Sushentsov of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), speaking at a conference this week hosted by the US-based Center for National Interest, said that the last US-Russian summit was more than a failure.

“The last summit, the failed one, held several years ago in Finland, was one of the greatest disasters in Russian-American relations.”

Sushentsov said it wouldn’t be difficult to do better this time around and he believes the United States is returning to a “consistent foreign policy that doesn’t sabotage itself.” But the bar for success is very high because relationships are so low. Respect will be an important quality to establish, Sushentsov said. Confidence, he added, is non-existent.

This list of grievances on both sides is long. The various oxen of the United States with Russia are well documented in the Western press; human rights violations, including in the case of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and a new wave of brutal crackdown on dissent; to interference in the American elections. Russia’s position is almost the opposite.


“Most Russians see American relations as a fundamental source of relationship problems,” said George Beebe of the Center for the National Interest. “In their opinion, Washington became too ambitious in the aftermath of the Cold War. He tried to remake Russia and remake the world according to American preferences and that turned out to be disastrous from the Russian point of view. This helped produce the collapse of the Russian state in the 1990s. It led to destabilizing wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. This produced a long series of punitive sanctions by the United States intended to force Moscow into submission. And rather than pursuing Gorbachev’s bold vision of a common European home that included Russia in the broad security architecture, the United States chose to make NATO the foundation of European security, to bring it closer together. NATO borders Russia. ”


Geneva is indeed the site of the summits of the Cold War – Eisenhower and Krushchev, Reagan and Gorbachev. But this can be interpreted in different ways. It was the place that brought the opponents to the table. Post-Soviet foreign policy expert Robert Legvold said: “It comes with a memory associated with potentially positive things.” Business is done in Geneva. Indeed, added Leggold, “when it comes to defining important areas of cooperation, the control of strategic nuclear weapons, the majority of these talks have also taken place in Geneva.

Some of this hard work in nuclear weapons control has been exhausted, with the new START treaty being the last pillar of the old security structure. And it’s worrying when the consensus is that relations are at this historically low level.

As George Beebe said this week, this Geneva summit will aim to minimize the chances of a direct confrontation that each side sees as a potentially catastrophic scenario. In a world with more than two centers of power – unlike the mere rivalry of the Cold War superpowers – the international security landscape appears to have a more varied map of pitfalls.

A measure of success, said Andrei Sushentsov, will be whether the two sides feel a shared sense of responsibility for global security.

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