The proposed summit between Russian President Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, will hardly resolve any outstanding issues between the two leaders, but may well serve as a springboard for communication and bilateral rapprochement, experts told Sputnik, adding that Putin may have a psychological advantage coming to the meeting since he did not reply in kind to Biden's public remarks
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 20th April, 2021) The proposed summit between Russian President Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, will hardly resolve any outstanding issues between the two leaders, but may well serve as a springboard for communication and bilateral rapprochement, experts told Sputnik, adding that Putin may have a psychological advantage coming to the meeting since he did not reply in kind to Biden's public remarks.
US-Russian relations hit headlines around the world last week after the Biden administration announced new sanctions against Russia and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats. It also moved to raise Russia's borrowing costs by barring American entities from buying ruble-denominated state bonds directly from Russia.
Reacting to the measures, Russia expelled 10 US diplomats and banned 8 current and former officials, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, from entering the country. Moscow also vowed to suspend the practice of hiring citizens of Russia and third countries to work in US diplomatic missions in Russia and to halt activities of American foundations that interfere in Russian politics. In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan was told that he should go and hold consultations in Washington with the US leadership. The State Department later confirmed to Sputnik that Sullivan would briefly return to the United States this week for a family visit and consultations with officials.
The United States maintains that Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) was responsible for the SolarWinds cyberattack, a cyberespionage campaign that allegedly exploited vulnerabilities of commercial patches and updates to target 16,000 computer systems worldwide, mostly in the US. There are nine US Federal agencies among the victims of the attack. Six Russian companies were slapped with sanctions for providing support to SVR and other intelligence agencies' cyberprograms. The SVR called the US accusations "nonsense" and "verbiage."
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL ADVANTAGE OF RUSSIA
The sanctions were introduced barely a day after the US leader proposed holding a personal meeting with the Russian president in a third country in the near future. The possible venue, time and circumstances of the potential summit are unknown, but fueled a number of discussions and speculations about the intentions of the leaders and the possible outcome.
"Due to his already publicly exposed qualifications towards Putin, Biden would have to live up to his supporters' expectations and will wish to display his resoluteness while at the same time he assumably would like to present himself as a constructive leader who is trying to save the world (from the Russian threat)," Professor Biljana Vankovska from the Security and Peace Department at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, told Sputnik.
She believes that the Russian leader has "a psychological and political advantage" over his US counterpart.
"...He [Putin] did not respond in the same offensive manner and did not belittle Biden - so the meeting by itself would not resolve anything for sure, but may establish a channel for communication, which is a piece of good news even if it resembles a Cold War time encounters," she explained.
According to Vankovska, whatever form that meeting takes, it is very important that it take place.
"If the leaders of the two countries with more than 90% of the world's nuclear warheads can't have a relatively constructive meeting and talk with each other, we're all in trouble. A big trouble!" she said.
Vankovska admitted that tensions between Russia and the US is bad for the whole globe, which is currently dealing with many urgent problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Roderick Kiewiet, professor of Political Science at the California Institute of Technology, believes that the Biden administration has "a very different sense of US national interests" than the Trump administration.
BIDEN LEFT WITH LITTLE ALTERNATIVE
After the US administration announced that Russia was to blame for the interference in the SolarWinds cyberattack and meddling with the US 2020 presidential election, Biden "was left with little alternative but to respond," Noah Mayhew, a research associate at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, told Sputnik.
"In this light, additional sanctions and expulsion of diplomats can hardly be a surprising response for Russia," he said.
Mayhew noted that existing barriers to US-Russian cooperation continue to exist, with the countries having disagreements over Ukraine and Crimea. Relations between Russia and the US took a turn for the worse in 2014 after the change of leadership in Ukraine, and subsequent reunification with Crimea after a referendum on the peninsula. Since then, Russia has been under Western sanctions.
"These issues are unlikely to be resolved in the near future regardless of what happens with the summit, and may pose as much or greater challenges than either new sanctions or the expulsion of diplomats," Mayhew said.
So far a number of countries, including Iceland, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic, have hinted that they are ready to host the possible summit. Biden said that he proposed to Putin that the two meet in Europe this summer to launch strategic stability talks.
Mayhew believes that Iceland's Reykjavik would be a strategically wise venue since it was where former US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev held their talks back in 1986. Though the negotiations collapsed at the last minute, they eventually resulted in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
"I do not know if the Iceland government has offered or is open to hosting such a meeting, but it does have certain historic value as the place where Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan nearly agreed to abolish nuclear weapons entirely. The two still came away from that summit with the now-famous joint pronouncement that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Perhaps such energy would be useful in their discussions," he concluded.