Russian-American Relations in 2021: Expectations and Concerns
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Relations between Moscow and Washington are far from the best of times, but this does not guarantee their further deterioration. This is the conclusion reached by Russian experts interviewed by the Russian service of the Voice of America, summing up the results of bilateral relations in 2020..
Recall that, as reported by the American media, the team of President-elect Joe Biden after his inauguration intends to consider several options for retaliatory actions against Russia for hacker attacks on the servers of government agencies and private companies in the United States. We can talk about both financial sanctions and operations in cyberspace..
In turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin during the December “big” press conference called Joe Biden an experienced politician, but stressed that much will depend on the new administration as a whole, saying: “There is a well-known formula – the king is made by the retinue …”
Earlier, Putin, discussing the prospects for Russia’s interaction with the United States, noted that “spoiled relations can no longer be spoiled.”.
Andrey Kortunov: Progress in some areas of bilateral relations is still possible
Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrei Kortunov, starting from Putin’s remark, in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America said that even if bilateral relations are at a very low point, this, unfortunately, does not mean that they cannot fall even lower.
“So, new and rather serious sanctions (against the Russian Federation) can be introduced, bilateral arms control can finally collapse, pressure on Russia in different directions can be increased,” he added. – But at the same time, of course, in assessing the general state of relations between Moscow and Washington, one can agree with the Russian president. This year, as well as the previous one, and for quite some time, relations between our countries continued to deteriorate. In general, there were no summits or other high-level meetings or contacts. The positions of the parties on fundamental issues of world politics and international relations diverged sharply “.
With the exception of a few rather narrow areas, cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States was broken, Andrei Kortunov stated: “Therefore, alas, there is almost nothing to brag about here. We can say that bilateral trade was conducted (although for Russia, and even more so for the United States, these are not significant volumes), cooperation continued in the Arctic, space, and some other areas. But, in general, the year is clearly not ending on a positive note, and most importantly, there is no substantial reason to hope that next year will get better in this regard. “.
At the same time, it seems to the director general of the Russian International Affairs Council that in some areas under Biden, shifts in one direction or the other in the context of bilateral relations are still possible. In particular, in his opinion, there are hopes for progress in the field of arms control..
“The parties can extend the START-3 treaty,” he said. – I think also, if we talk about certain regional problems, there will probably be new additional opportunities, say, in the Middle East. At the same time, it can be assumed that Biden will pay more attention to human rights issues and provide support to some of Russia’s closest neighbors – such as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova ”.
However, there are no objective grounds for radical changes in Russian-American relations, summed up Andrei Kortunov.
Valery Garbuzov: “So far, I do not see any signs of upcoming cooperation anywhere”
In turn, the director of the Institute of the USA and Canada, Professor Valery Garbuzov believes that in the last year the process of building bilateral relations has been reduced exclusively to conversations on this topic. Although, according to the professor, the same can be said about the entire period of the Donald Trump administration.
“In essence, Trump became the first president to combine elements of pro-Russian rhetoric with active anti-Russian policies in practice,” the Voice of America interlocutor emphasized. – Putting aside the words, he consistently continued the line that was laid down during the time of Barack Obama to twist the sanctions spiral. This was the US response to the change in Russian political course, which is associated with Putin’s coming to power. “.
Valery Garbuzov is inclined to think that Biden and his administration will act in the same direction. In any case, this should be expected, he predicts: “And since Moscow’s foreign policy will not change, the US policy, which is built on a bipartisan basis, will generally remain the same. The challenge is to establish, where possible, elements of dialogue on some specific issues. Most experts do not exclude that it will be possible to do this in the field of arms control, anti-terrorist efforts and the fight against a pandemic. True, so far I do not see any signs of upcoming cooperation anywhere “.
The director of the US and Canada Institute has also made, albeit with reservations, progress on the Iranian nuclear issue. According to him, a lot depends on Iran as well: “Because in the current situation it will be very difficult to return Tehran to the fold of the previous treaty. Trump acted very sharply, upsetting the delicate balance that was achieved by the efforts of many countries involved in the preparation of the nuclear deal. ” It will be possible at least to establish a dialogue with Iran, it is also a big question, the Americanist concluded..
Dmitry Oreshkin: “For the existence of Putin’s regime, an external threat is simply necessary”
Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin agrees that there is always the possibility of making bilateral relations worse. According to him, “with a great desire” you can go from a hybrid confrontation to a direct.
“For example, to return to the situation of the Cuban missile crisis, when we had to balance on the brink of an armed conflict,” he said in a commentary to the Voice of America. – So Vladimir Putin, it seems to me, deliberately simplifies the situation. The financial abyss, as Ostap Bender said, is the deepest: you can fall into it all your life. Almost the same can be said about Russian-American relations. “.
It is really difficult to improve relations, the political scientist stated. And such a task, as he sees it, is definitely not on the agenda..
“This is straight "merit" Putin, who worsened relations not only with the United States, he said. – But tell me, with whom did he improve them, especially from the countries of the Western world? For the existence of the Putin regime, an external threat is simply necessary. Because how else can one explain such huge spending on military and power blocs? America for the Putin regime is a challenge simply by the fact of its existence, with its power, wealth and authority. The presence of such an alternative morally destroys the raison d’être of Putin’s vertical. Despite the fact that for the United States Russia is of little interest, except for its aggressiveness in combination with a nuclear arsenal “.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 14 advanced economies, Russia’s image in the world, like that of its President Vladimir Putin, has been deteriorating for several years. On average, 66 percent of the adult population of these countries have a negative attitude towards Russia and only 29 percent have a positive.
For the better, relations between the two countries can change when the Putin regime runs out of resources, Dmitry Oreshkin said. It seems to him that the state of the Russian economy in two or three years will become even worse, and then, perhaps, even Putin will have to look for options for establishing a dialogue with the United States..