Putin-Biden Summit Marks a Step Forward
In the days leading to the June 16 summit between Presidents Biden and Putin, one did not have to be a pessimist to believe that a train wreck was coming. The language directed against Russia from the U.S. side, especially from the Secretary of State Blinken and the President himself, continued the vilification of Vladimir Putin and the characterization of Russia as an autocratic state, with a “malign intent” toward “democracies”.
In the public discussion of leaders at the G7 summit (June 11-13) , and again in Brussels at the NATO summit (June 14), the press dutifully reported on the appearance of a generally unanimous front against the “Russian threat” and the “systemic challenge” from China (cf. SAS 24/12). More sanctions were reported to be on the way, to punish the two countries for their unwillingness to surrender their sovereignty. The best that could be hoped for, Biden and Blinken repeated, would be a “stable and predictable relationship.”
But something else was occurring outside the bubble of the reported consensus. The momentary brush with nuclear war over Ukraine and Taiwan, and the fragility of the western financial system threatened by growing debt bubbles and hyperinflationary monetary expansion, generated dissension from within the “Club”, with at least Germany, France and Italy reported to be less than enthusiastic about geopolitical confrontation with either Russia or China.
Even as the rhetorical buildup against the two countries continued, meetings took place which, in hindsight, may have generated some inkling of understanding that the direction of relations must change. On May 19, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and his American counterpart Blinken had a “cordial and productive” meeting in Reykjavik, no doubt aided by the U.S. decision to waive sanctions against the lead company involved in Nord Stream 2 and its CEO. This was followed by a productive session on May 25 between the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Of significant note were statements issued in early June by two organizations which include high-level officials from political, military and diplomatic circles in the west and in Russia: the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group, and the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord. Both statements referred to the summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, in which the two agreed that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
That this exact wording was reaffirmed in the communique from the Putin-Biden summit sent a message that both leaders wished to step back from the nuclear confrontation which had been brewing in the preceding period.