By General Monzer El Ayoubi*


Translation:  Dr.Pierre A. Sarkis

Joe Biden: (Putin is a murderer and will pay for his actions); Vladimir Putin (the murderer is the one who describes the other as being one).  Two statements that guaranteed a diplomatic rift between the United States and Russia, on the account of President Biden accusing his Russian counterpart of interfering in the US presidential elections.

The White House Chief’s remarks came a few months after he took office during a televised interview on ABC News.  It did not take long for the Kremlin to strike back in an unconcealed angry response, summoning the Russian Ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, for consultations as per diplomatic procedures.  Relations between the two capitals appeared to deteriorate since last January after tumbling down when it was revealed that a very sharp-toned phone conversation took place between the two leaders, during which President Biden warned President Putin of a possible response if Moscow’s interference in the elections, which brought the former to the Oval Office, was confirmed.  In the meantime, William Burns, the Head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was delivering his report on Moscow’s interference in the 2020 presidential elections summing it up with “President Putin oversaw enormous efforts to influence negatively and distort Biden’s campaign.”

Ono the other hand, the silent disagreement between the two rivals was deep, for both leaders were stubborn, exacerbating the already troubled relations as a list of sanctions against Russia was issued.  But the beginning of patching the tense and deadlocked course could be on 16 June, after White House and Kremlin sources announced that a much awaited first meeting between the two presidents was set for Geneva, Switzerland, on fringe of the meetings of the heads of states of the Group of Seven industrialized countries, the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Japan and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

Next, what are the priorities of the Superpowers’ two capitals?  Are these priorities identical in terms of form and expected results for each file?  For President Biden, the main and implicit goal is to restore the position of the US as the only superpower without any partners, but the emergence of Russia as a second superpower and a partner in ruling and managing world affairs, has become somewhat inevitable.  The issues and the crises are innumerable and both presidents are concerned, if not immersed in them directly or indirectly. Strategic goals and visions transcend everything else, where at least attaining or regulating geopolitical changes in their known areas of influence, in accordance to their interests within the allowed margins and the drawn lines, become their priority.

Alternatively, bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow whoever is the president (including the new President Joe Biden) fluctuated between tension and cautious equanimity, as they are in a continuous state of staticum “the silence before the storm.”  They are enemies of firm historical and ideological backgrounds, with their intercontinental and roving nuclear missiles almost converging, despite the impossibility of propelling them out of their silos.  Other times, they are two bitter opponents stalking and competing with each other for political and military hegemony, as well as, control the planet’s resources according to circumstances, capabilities and alliances, and the size and quality of the crises and many other reasons.

However, former US President Donald Trump in his uniqueness and distinction from others who preceded him, or those who will succeed him, and with his excess self-confidence based on an inner feeling of overwhelming power and disdain close to arrogance for others, provided bilateral relations with heads of states whether enemies or allies, a new dimension, by playing a big part that could have become a key factor, which was the imposition of his personal vision in wasted efforts, and ignoring studies by planning and analysis institutions, as well as, reports by the CIA, and the Pentagon (Department of Defense), making individual binding decisions at the strategic and tactical levels, whether positive or negative. This applied to his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un to name a few.

From the cumulative analysis and in an attempt to coordinate both visions, the talks will generally aim to achieve some kind of stability in relations between the two sides, as well as, several pressing issues on the agenda:

• Cooperation in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic with the dissemination of vaccines to different countries and provide support for specialized laboratories and develop it to the level of permanent treatments.

• Nuclear stability through the commitment to the NEW START Treaty and the reduction of strategic offensive weapons, after extending it last February for another five years, as well as, Russian medium-range and short-range nuclear missile systems which puts Europe or NATO countries under its umbrella, while seeking and coordinating the situation in accordance with Washington’s desire for China to join in.

• Raising the issue of Belarus by the US President, regarding its human rights, its regime and the oppressive performance by Russian-backed president, Alexander Lukashenko, in a way that does not anger or create a new crisis with Russia.

• The return of Washington to the 5+1 agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program while imposing monitoring systems and new restrictions in exchange for lifting sanctions against Tehran.

• The chronic nuclear file of North Korea and the reduction of its ballistic missile tests.

• The dispute over the North Pole where Russian nuclear submarines roam the depth of the frozen Artic Ocean, in addition to the environmental threat posed by the thousands of tons of nuclear waste in the Kara Sea, a part of the ocean, and the vast quantities of oil and natural gas stored in it.

• The Middle East Region file which includes the Syrian war with its ramifications and intersections with different crises in the region; the war in Yemen; protection of the national security of Israel and the two-state solution and the pointless path of normalization; the security of the Arabian Gulf and sea lanes; the US bases in Iraq and the Iranian influence.

• The Cyber War and Cyber War attacks which Moscow is accused of launching against US infrastructure and servers that support information systems, as well as, harboring Russian internet hackers who penetrate the networks of vital institutions, and demand ransom money.  Such a case occurred when the gas pipeline company Colonial, the main fuel supplier for East Coast States, was targeted which led to its closure for several days. As recently as last Sunday, the world’s largest meat producer JBS was the target of a cyber-attack, which led to the suspension of its production, packaging and export operations.

• The acceptance by Russia, and against the backdrop of US sanctions against Russian personalities and entities, for European countries to pay for Russian gas in Euros instead of US currency, which would be a blow to the Biden Administration and exacerbate the volume of tensions.

In conclusion, the meeting between President Biden and the murderer President Putin will be in the form of a judicial settlement, based on the US justice system.  While US sources consider that the meeting with Vladimir Putin should not be a reward for him, President Biden is keen on getting out of the game with a positive draw, culminating in results leading to breakthroughs in bilateral relations and solutions to some of the regional crises. On the other hand, the Russian president considers that the disagreement and the tensions with the US stem from the theory of containing the economic, technological and armament development in Russia, and it is urgent that a path should be found, to regulate these relations which are today at their lowest levels.

*Scholar in Security and Strategic Affairs

Beirut, 08/06/2021