The War Party Pushes Back against Progress Made in Geneva
Russophobes in the West must have been shocked and dismayed to hear that the “Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability” issued by Presidents Biden and Putin after their summit, declares: “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That is a clear and rational rejection of the many strategic papers circulating in the Pentagon, at NATO headquarters and in think tanks on the possibility of waging a “limited nuclear war” – and winning it. The statement also includes an agreement to establish a bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue to work on resolving outstanding issues.
Other positive developments from the June 16 summit include the return of ambassadors to each nation, after they had been recalled in March after Joe Biden called Putin a “killer”, as well as Biden’s reference to the Minsk protocol, indicating the prospect of a revival of diplomacy to resolve tensions regarding Ukraine.
Both leaders also agreed to begin “consultations on cybersecurity”, which is seen as a concession on the U.S. side, after Putin’s denial that Russia is responsible for allowing repeated cyber attacks on U.S. infrastructure and in elections. In separate press conferences, both leaders offered cautious assessments of their engagement.
The response of the unified war party represented by the U.S. and British mainstream media to these developments demonstrates their intent to undermine the fragile progress achieved. President Biden is accused of being “too soft” on his Russian counterpart (although not nearly as strongly as Don ald Trump was vilified after his summit with Putin in Helsinki
in July 2018).
The Economist, speaking on behalf of the City of London monetarists, claimed that Putin needs a form of detente with America, “so he can focus on the more urgent business of repressing dissent and rebuilding his empire.” The article describes Putin as the leader of a kleptocratic regime “dominated by violent security services, … [one] that cares more about wealth than ideology, and is preoccupied with its own survival rather than a global contest with America let alone the interests of the Russian people.”
Likely in response to this pushback, even on his plane ride back to Washington from Geneva, President Biden presented a less optimistic assessment of the meeting. Then, on June 20, Jake Sullivan announced that a new package of sanctions was being prepared against Russia over the Navalny affair and over the Nord Stream 2 project.
In sum, the Biden-Putin talks by no means guarantee a breakout of peaceful cooperation, that would require a clean break with geopolitics. But they do represent a step back from a plunge over the cliff into inevitable war. Moreover, just days afer the summit, Sullivan announced that there are plans to have a similar summit between Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping. Thus, the “baby-step” achieved in the Geneva summit has opened the door to further diplomatic progress.