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Putin-Biden Geneva Meeting: Future Trajectory Of Bilateral Relations? – OpEd

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About 2300 years ago, Chanakya said, ” One’s security should be guarded against the wrath of the enemy”.  If we look at the contemporary world political circumstance, we can easily get the exactness of Chanakya’s quote. Especially, the skeptical attitude that the USA and Russia have had towards each other since the Cold War is related to Chanakya’s that remark.

However, Biden recently completed his first-ever trip to Europe. Biden attended the G-7 summit in the UK, NATO summit in Brussels. But the most important schedule of Biden’s visit to Europe was his meeting with Russian President Putin in Geneva. Analysts have closely monitored the Biden-Putin meeting in Geneva because this was Biden’s first meeting with Vladimir Putin. Analysts assert the talks between Biden a d Putin on issues of mutual interests are crucial.

But there’s considerable anxiety as to how far Washington and Moscow will implement those issues of mutual interest. Because Putin had bilateral meetings with other four predecessors before Biden. Every time they talked about strengthening the Moscow-Washington relationship, but it has never appeared to fruition. So there’s no reason to say that the Biden-Putin Geneva meeting will also consolidate bilateral relations between them. 

Nonetheless, Biden’s rhetoric against Putin before the meeting indicated that the Putin-Biden dialogue would be a conventional one. For instance, as soon as Biden arrived in Britain, he spoke out against Russia and its ally China. G-7 leaders indicated Russia’s threatening actions as threats to democracy also. They even warned Russia to avoid its belligerent attitude. 

But Biden’s furious attitude was evident at the NATO summit in Brussels. He described the Russian President as a ‘ harsh’ leader. He even remarked that Russia wouldn’t be given any concessions if it hurt the interests of the USA and its allies. This is how President Biden kept the American-Russian diplomatic tension alive.

Also, NATO’s top leaders still view Russia as a security threat, as they did during the Cold War l. Especially, NATO’s mistrust of Russia has been heightened by cyberattacks sponsored by the Russian government, military rallies on the Ukrainian border. The USA and NATO have also harshly denounced Russia for renewing tensions in the Crimean Peninsula and advocating human rights abuses in Belarus. Biden also lashed out at Putin over the repression of opposition leaders and the strengthening of Putin’s dictatorship in Russia. 

Not only did the Biden-led NATO criticize Russia, but it also warned China of harsh repression. Ahead of the NATO summit, Biden and G-7 leaders also posed a threat to China at the G-7 summit. At both the G-7 and NATO summits, Biden portrayed China’s innovation to expand its single dominance in the Pacific region as “threatening”. Biden often sharply condemned China over its crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang. In short, Biden and his allies view both China and Russia as warnings to global security. 

Additionally, both China and Russia have had authoritarian regimes since the beginning of the Cold War. The autocrats of China and Russia have always advocated each other’s dictatorship in dealing with the USA. So the Sino-Russian alliance has always been a headache for the USA. 

Moreover, before the Geneva meeting, Biden’s main agenda was to intimidate Russia in any way. That’s why Biden alarmed Putin to set “boundaries” before leaving Brussels.

This proves that Biden didn’t have a positive attitude towards the Geneva meeting. His expectations encircling the meeting were also limited. 

On the other hand, Putin wasn’t optimistic about the Geneva meeting like Biden. In particular, Biden’s anti-Russian rhetoric angered Putin. In response to Biden’s critique, Putin spoke out against the USA. He questioned the current internal political instability in the USA. That’s why he brought up the George Floyd murder case and the incident of the Capitol Hill riots. 

The stance that was taken by Biden and Putin against each other demonstrates that they’re not interested in developing Moscow-Washington relations. Nobody expected the Geneva meeting to amend the rift between America and Russia relations over the past two decades.

So soon there’ll be no sign of breaking the ice between Moscow and Washington that could lead to the development of bilateral relations between them.

But hopefully, Biden and Putin discussed many significant issues at the Geneva meeting. Analysts hope the Geneva meeting could be fruitful if Moscow and Washington work together on the issues. 

One of those issues is the renewal of the ‘New Start Treaty’ between America and Russia, which expired last February. They’re keen to renew the deal for another five years.

Moreover, the embassies of the two countries haven’t had ambassadors for a long time. So both Biden and Putin agreed to appoint ambassadors to their respective embassies. The appointment of ambassadors could facilitate mutual diplomatic relations between the two. 

Additionally, the two countries placed the greatest importance on cybersecurity. There’ve been widespread cyber attacks around the world over the last few years. The USA has always blamed Russian hackers. Especially, Biden didn’t take Russia’s cyberattacks well in the 2016 American election. So Biden cautioned Putin about Russia’s future cyber attacks. However, Putin claimed that American hackers are mostly involved in hacking.  

Furthermore, an important aspect of the Geneva meeting was to discuss the Middle East issue. First, they stressed the importance of sending humanitarian assistance to Syria. Biden wanted to send international aid using the Syria-Turkey border. But there’re doubts about whether Putin will allow that to happen because he’s very concerned about the security of Syria.

Putin and Biden also conversed about Iran’s nuclear program. Biden said he wanted Putin to bring Iran back to the nuclear deal. Biden often decried his predecessor Trump for pulling out of the nuclear deal. So Biden expects to utilize the good relationship of Iran-Russia to bring Iran back into the deal.

However, the disagreement between Putin and Biden didn’t go unnoticed. For instance, Biden expressed deep concern over the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Navalny. But Putin dismissed it as Russia’s internal affairs. 

There was also controversy between the two on the Ukrainian issue. Analysts deem hostile relations between America and Russia over Ukraine and Crimea will continue. During the meeting, Biden alarmed Putin against gathering Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. 

Both of them also have disagreements on human rights issues. 

Additionally, Biden and Putin discussed Corona Pandemic, energy resources a d climate. 

Although Biden and Putin talked about many issues, there’s still considerable skepticism about how far they’ll go. International analysts don’t believe that these issues are enough for melting the ice between the Moscow-Washington relations. Because they still contemplate each other as rivalries. 

Especially, the contradictory attitudes of Biden and Putin before the Geneva meeting didn’t have a positive impact. Just as Putin maintains good associations with China to counter US hegemonic power, Biden desires to utilize NATO to counter threats from China and Russia.

That’s why it’s needless to say that the Geneva meeting was just a formality. Because Russia and America have been in talks many times before, but no positive outcomes have ever appeared. Therefore, it can be said the result of the Biden-Putin Geneva meeting is zero.

So both the USA and Russia need to be equally enterprising in breaking the ice. They must have the mentality of giving concessions to each other. Otherwise, the progress of Russian-American bilateral relations will be hindered. 

*Ashiq Iqbal Jishad is pursuing undergraduate education from the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka. His research interests include migration, transatlantic relations, European Union and NATO Affairs.

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