Geneva Summit Concluded, Putin and Biden Return To Their Corners

In front of the cameras, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin each claimed to have had a ‘positive dialogue’ at their Geneva summit meeting. However, once the summit ended, it was Putin who seemed to walk away the winner. Although Biden admittedly walked away with his expectations fulfilled, the bar had been set awfully low for the American president going into the summit. Biden came to Geneva primarily to open a dialogue between himself and Putin and promote a stable, predictable US-Russia relationship. This goal was partly achieved, yet it will take time to determine if the relationship becomes stable and predictable. Beyond that, however, Biden achieved nothing of substance.

The Russian president, on the other hand, took advantage of the opportunity to bask in the limelight. With the attention of the world upon him, he took advantage of the opportunity to elevate his stature back home in Russia. The summit came a few short months before parliamentary elections in Russia are scheduled to be held. Putin’s popularity at home is waning, the Russian economy is faltering and his COVID-19 response has not been effective at all. Yet he appeared strong and confident in Geneva and that projection could help him and his party at the ballot box.

Before arriving in Geneva, President Biden offered two concessions to Russia in the form of extending the START II treaty and removing NordStream 2 sanctions. This left him with very little to negotiate with. In essence, Biden came to the summit without any rounds in the chamber. This may explain his emphasis on human rights issues, especially the fate of Alexei Navalny. Biden warned of serious consequences if the Russian opposition figure dies in prison. Putin did not appear shaken by the warning, especially given comments made in his post-summit press conference. He defended his government’s treatment of Navalny and likened Russia’s opposition protests to the Black Lives Matter protests/riots in US cities last summer. “We feel sympathy for the United States of America but we don’t want that to happen on our territory. We’re doing our utmost in order to not allow it to happen.”

Bold words for a man under fire globally for a less-than-stellar human rights record.

14 June, 2021 Short Update: Biden Turns His Attention To Geneva And Putin

Less than 48 hours before his much-anticipated summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, US President Joe Biden called the Russian leader a ‘worthy adversary’ at a press conference today. As the NATO summit in Brussels concludes, attention is focusing on Geneva and the upcoming meeting between the US and Russian presidents. It will not be a friendly encounter or one which helps to improve relations between the two nations. The Biden administration has stated its goal with regards to Russia is to develop a stable and predictable relationship. Common ground on issues such as COVID, climate change and cybercrimes will be sought out.  A tall order given that Putin’s Russia has thrived from keeping the West off guard and wary for years now. Russia’s goals for the summit meeting are a little more difficult to decipher. Feeling out Biden and getting a good idea for the new president’s boundaries will certainly be one of them. Aside from that, speculation reigns among observers and journalists.

Author’s Note: Apologies for the short post. Today’s schedule ran far later than expected. I’ll post another entry on the coming summit tomorrow afternoon or evening. Hope everyone is well. –Mike

Biden Arrives In Europe

US President Joe Biden has arrived in Europe today, kicking off the first overseas trip of his presidency. Before leaving, the ever-so-eloquent chief executive told reporters the goals for his trip to Europe will be “strengthening the alliance, making it clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight.” Upon his arrival in Great Britain, Biden addressed US airmen at RAF Mildenhall and spoke further on the intended purpose of his European trip. Specifically with regards to Russia and his scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin on 16 June in Geneva.

Before Geneva comes the G7 summit in Cornwall, England which will take place this coming weekend. The stated goal of the Biden administration has been to use the summit as a launching point to mend relations with European allies and roll back the rhetoric and actions of the Trump presidency that allegedly placed undue pressure on the US relationship with Europe. Climate change, creating a unified front in the face of China’s growing influence around the world, and the coming withdrawal of US and European troops from Afghanistan. The Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline will almost certainly come up in discussions. The US remains opposed to the pipeline in spite of Germany’s support for it. There is concern in Washington that the heavy German involvement in Nord Stream 2 can be used by Russia to drive a wedge into NATO in the event of a future crisis.

Between the G7 summit and Geneva, Biden will spend some time in Brussels at NATO headquarters. China and Russia will be discussed in deeper detail there, and the president is expected to press America’s NATO partners to contribute more to the common defense. This is hardly a new request and it is one that Biden’s predecessor addressed effectively. It will be interesting to see how NATO reacts to the new president and his somewhat recycled concepts and notions about NATO’s role in the future.

Ukraine Update 13 April, 2021: Discussions And Threats

13 April has been a day of dialogue, discussion and warnings between the United States and Russia over the situation in eastern Ukraine, as well as the deployment of US warships to the Black Sea.

President Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone today and Ukraine was one of the topics discussed. Arms control and security issues dominated the call, predicably enough. Biden called on Putin to deescalate the tensions relating to the Russian troop buildup along its border with Ukraine. The US president also proposed a US-Russia summit meeting be held in a third country “in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia,” according to the White House press release. In short, Biden did not take the opportunity to discuss the Ukraine crisis at length or warn Putin against moving on Ukraine. A missed opportunity on the part of Biden and the White House.

Meanwhile, around the same time, a Russian official was labeling the United States as an adversary of Russia. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also warned the US to keep its warships away from the Crimea ‘for their own good.’ He called the deployment of US Navy ships into the Black Sea a provocation intended to test Russian nerves. “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

He was not the only member of the Russian government to speak today. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated the Russian military buildup is a response to threats from NATO. The military exercise now currently underway near the Ukrainian border is part of a series of readiness drills and will continue for two weeks. Shoigu made the comments during a visit to a naval base at Gadzhiyevo, on the Kola Peninsula.

Moon Jae-In to Meet Trump in April


South Korean President Moon Jae-in will travel to Washington DC in April for talks with President Trump on issues of mutual interest, as well as the latest developments with regard to North Korea and Kim Jong Un. The South Korean leader had played an active role as intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang in the weeks leading up to the first US-North Korean Summit in Singapore. Following that, Moon’s role, and that of his country, lessened. Trump and Kim took centerstage and diplomacy between the two nations no longer required the services of an intermediary.

The stalemate reached at the second summit in Hanoi last month could breathe new life into Moon’s prospects to play a pivotal role in efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Relations between the United States and North Korea are regressing temporarily as both sides analyze the situation, and plan their next respective moves. An intermediary could prove useful in the coming months to ensure no retrograde takes place, permanent or otherwise.

Moon’s problem is that he might be overestimating his usefulness at this point. To be fair, his efforts to bring the first summit to life were beneficial. The road to in-person talks between Trump and Kim would’ve been longer if Moon had not met his North Korean opposite at Panmunjom in April, 2018. This meeting threw down the gauntlet and opened the door to Singapore.

The stalemate at Hanoi gives him an opportunity to get back in the game. The matter at hand now is determining exactly how to go about achieving complete denuclearization. South Korea has no nuclear weapons so the southern half of the Korean Peninsula is already denuclearized. North Korea wants the heavy burden of US economic sanctions to be dropped before it takes any further steps towards dropping its nuclear weapons, and ballistic missile program. Moon is very limited with what he can offer Pyongyang to jumpstart the discussion.

South Korea’s president could find himself as Trump’s messenger. This might not be the role Moon wants, but it might wind up being the most crucial job if the United States, South Korea, and North Korea intend to get denuclearization efforts back on track soon.