Russia recoils at possibility of stable relationship with US
The traditional May 9 Victory Day parade in Moscow was not a big deal this year, unlike the one originally scheduled for 2020, which had to be postponed and cut short due to the severe worsening of the COVID pandemic. 19. The rumble of tanks in Red Square last Sunday, however, meant that the break in Kremlin policymaking caused by the extended May recess (see EDM, May 3) has ended and that the policy instrument of choice. Russian foreigner – military might – is ready. for new demonstrations and deployments. President Vladimir Putin was content to take a break from “boring” issues such as the violent border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan or the diplomatic quarrels with the Czech Republic (Carnegie.ru, May 4). Rather than spending more time on these, Putin probably thinks he needs to set the political groundwork for the planned summit with US President Joseph Biden in mid-June, even though insightful analysts in Moscow are playing down expectations of any kind of breakthrough (Russiancouncil.ru, May 6).
Biden’s offer is clear: If Russia refrains from creating unrest and abides by international rules, the United States is ready to develop stable relations (sift, May 5). The proposal was developed at the G7 foreign ministers meeting in London last week (May 3-5), where Russia was a major topic of discussion. Notably, the seven participating powers decided to soften their final resolution of the wording on deterrence of multiple threats to expressing a preference for the reduction of tensions (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 5). The problem for the Kremlin with this invitation to refrain from military threats, cyber attacks and other international security transgressions is that Russia’s role in European affairs would then be reduced to irrelevance, instead of irrelevance. desired domination over its recognized domain (see EDM, May 6). Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly rejected the plan to enforce Western rules by Russia, calling it a malicious attempt to exercise “totalitarianism” in world affairs (Kommersant, May 7).
The main cause of Lavrov’s outburst at the virtual United Nations Security Council meeting was the sanctions imposed and constantly tweaked by the United States and the European Union, which Russia’s leaders simultaneously try to ignore as trivial and make an excuse. for the poor performance of the Russian economy (RBC, May 4). The latest round of US sanctions introduced in mid-April were less severe than many people in Moscow had anticipated, so now every apparent indication that Biden’s team has no plans to add more punitive measures is amply amplified by the Russian media (Izvestia, May 8). The worrying prospect for Russian politicians and oligarchs, however, is that the US government, following Biden’s decree, is preparing measures that would effectively sanction Russia’s next rule violation; and even the generally hesitant European Parliament recently passed, with extraordinary leeway, a resolution suggesting a ban on imports of oil and natural gas from Russia, among other measures (Rosbalt, May 6). The sanctions regime therefore has a deterrent rather than destructive effect on the Russian economy, and the sanctions already imposed for multiple wrongdoings deny the Kremlin the possibility of “militarizing” energy exports, even as a countermeasure. last resort (Echo of Moscow, April 28).
It is not sanctions but bad domestic policies that are hampering a strong post-pandemic recovery and supporting declining household incomes, which is the main concern of the majority of Russians (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 7). The Kremlin is increasingly relying on the power of the police to quell discontent, but as many Russian economists argue, repressions are costly and have become a major contributing factor to chronic economic stagnation (Ezhednevny Zhurnal, May 6). Despite all the propaganda and self-glorification, which usually focuses on the Soviet victory in WWII but hides its horrific human cost, Russia’s international image turns into a brutal and backward dictatorship, draining its resources. of “soft power” (VTimes, May 5). The persecution of the political opposition and the restriction of media freedom are not only internal affairs but violations of international standards. And the G7 meeting confirmed that the West recognizes the link between the rise of Russian repression at home and Moscow’s aggressive behavior abroad (Novaya Gazeta, May 6). Russia seeks to join China in a counter-offensive against this “interference”. As such, Lavrov spoke out against the US plan to convene a summit of democracies, warning that it would cause further escalation of global tensions (TASS, May 7).
Ukraine remains the central problem in shaping Biden’s draft strategy to stabilize relations with Russia because, for the Putin regime, the prospect of successful reforms leading to a regular westernization of this neighboring state remains unacceptable (Forbes.ru, May 7). Russia’s gross military pressure on Ukraine has eased since early May, but preparations to resume it as quickly as Moscow sees fit continue and naval tensions in the Black Sea remain dangerously high (Newsru.com, May 6). US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Kiev on May 6 was supposed to reassure Ukrainians of Washington’s strong support and deter Russia from further provocations, but it was seen in Moscow as a demonstration of the Organization. of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO). hostile intentions (Kommersant, May 6). President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited several Western ambassadors to accompany him on a trip to the Donbass war zone, seeking to boost discussions within the EU regarding expanding military support to Ukraine , which has positioned itself as a crucial pillar of European security (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 6). As new information continues to surface about Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) operations targeting “hostile” installations and actors in Central and South-Eastern Europe, European politicians are more clearly beginning to recognize the urgency of action. collective action against the corrupt networks that allow these crimes (New times, May 7).
Conventional political wisdom says that Russia should benefit from more stable relations with the United States and Europe, which should theoretically alleviate Russia’s lingering fears of a NATO invasion. This logic, however, does not apply to the Putin regime – and not just because the latter must exaggerate external threats to justify its internal repressions and explain the economic failures. Every step in strengthening solidarity among Western democracies and respecting democratic values poses a threat to the existence of this corrupt autocracy, and no detente or “reset” can mitigate this threat in the eyes of the Kremlin. On the western side, containment may undermine Russia’s ability to project military might, but such a strategy is still a work in progress, and the Kremlin will attempt to exploit every opening to dialogue in order to undermine and erode it. Western commitment to these goals.