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Q&A: The Impact of the US-Russia Summit in Geneva

On Wednesday 16/6/2021 the first summit between US President Biden and Russian President Putin was held in Geneva. What is the significance of this summit? And what is its objective? Were positive results achieved from the meeting of the two presidents in Geneva, that is, are US-Russian relations heading towards improvement after years of being described as the worst in the history of the two countries?

The impact of the US-Russia summit can only be understood by understanding the backgrounds that led to the deterioration of relations between the two countries in recent years:

1-  Many media outlets and some politicians describe the two countries, America and Russia as “the two giants,” in continuation of the reality that has been embedded in the minds; that America and the Soviet Union are the strongest and largest two countries in the world, each has a camp. The truth is, that the great weakness that befell the Russia state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has greatly lowered its ranking from the level of international competition with America. For all this, the summit held between the heads of the two countries is far less significant than the US-Soviet summits, which had many consequences, since only the military power, especially nuclear and missile capabilities, and its space capabilities remained from the pillars of Russia’s greatness! Otherwise, Russia has no greatness.

2- Russian relations with America began to deteriorate with the end of the Obama administration, as the sanctions (imposed) were due to Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014 and its expulsion from the Group of Eight (G8), then the sanctions due to interference in the US elections in 2016, and the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and imposition of sanctions on the Russian intelligence services at the end of December 2016, that is, after Trump won the US elections and before he assumed his duties (Deutsche Welle, 14/1/2017). Despite all the sweet words that Trump uttered towards Putin, America continued to impose more sanctions on Russia, and pushing relations between them near tension, and Russian consulates were closed in many American cities, and restrictions were forced on Russian news channels in America, and US sanctions were imposed on Russia for good and not-so-good reasons, so it was imposed for the arrest of Russian opposition leader Navalny, charges were imposed for poisoning the Russian opponent Skripal in Britain in 2018, and imposed on Russian technology companies charges of cyber-attacks, as at the end of the Trump administration. And when the Biden administration came, it further aggravated relations. US President Biden described Russia’s President Putin as a “killer” and that he would pay the price for his interference in the US elections (Sky News Arabic 17/3/2021). The Russian ambassador left Washington as a consequence during March 2021, then the US ambassador left Moscow the following month… America threatened to expel Russia from the international financial system.

3- The Biden Democratic administration holds more hatred for Russia and its President Putin and accuses him of being the reason for Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 presidential election. Democrats in the opposition were demanding former President Trump to punish Russia accusing him of being lenient with it, and they were embarrassing him with that and threatened Russia (of consequences) if they won the elections in 2020. When the Democrat president Biden won in that election it coincided with very strong cyber-attacks against the systems of the SolarWinds company that are used by sensitive US government agencies. US intelligence accused Russia of these cyber-attacks… and America started describing Russia as “the enemy”… and even two days before the summit, Biden threatened to join Ukraine in NATO! Thus, this meeting was inconsistent with the tension between the two countries, but it had another face. By examining its background and its course, it becomes clear:

a- The meeting between the two presidents ended in two and a half hours after it had been scheduled for four hours, and the joint press conference of the two presidents was not held, each of them held his press conference separately, both conferences were broadcasted by Al-Jazeera Channel on 16/6/2021 and other media, Live, and the joint statement was limited to the two sides’ agreement that there is no winner in the nuclear war even though it does not loom on the horizon between them, and US President Biden pledged to continue Washington’s commitment to the START III Treaty to reduce strategic arms after the committees that were agreed to be formed accomplish the prerequisites in this aspect. The many contentious issues between the two countries were discussed, and the Russian President asked his American counterpart about describing him as a “killer.” Biden spoke in his press conference about the devastating effects of the possible death of the Russian opposition leader Navalny in prison, but he described the conference as fruitful and positive and implicitly admitted that the meeting included a threat to Russia if it interfered in the US elections again or carried out cyber-attacks again. The Russian President said in his press conference that it is difficult to say that relations between the two countries are improving, but he spoke of a glimmer of hope for that, and attacked the US in the issue of Human Rights recalling the US Intelligence prisons in Guantanamo and other countries and the inhumane practices of America against the blacks and other nations; this is in response to the harsh American criticism of human rights inside Russia. Biden spoke of the importance of holding a direct meeting between him and Putin to avoid any misunderstanding in relations between them, and suggested that the future of relations depends on Russia’s steps.

b- After scrutinizing, we find that America was the one who took the initiative to pressure Russia, and America was the one that aggravated the relations between them to the extent that President Putin of Russia described them earlier as “devastating for Russia”, America was the one that initiated the summit meeting between the two leaders without having agreement on the points of contention between them, and Russia rejoiced that Biden is the first American president to decide to meet with its president on his first foreign tour, as Russian evidence of the importance Washington attaches to Moscow. US President Biden responded to it by visiting Britain and meeting with its Prime Minister Johnson, and making the G7 Summit in Britain attend, after it was expected to be virtual online. Biden added to it the attendance summit of NATO in Brussels, during which he held several meetings, including with Turkish President Erdogan, and in Brussels, Biden also held a rare meeting of its kind with the heads of the European Council, Charles Michel and the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Thus, the Biden-Putin meeting became one of the many meetings that the American president held in person on his European tour, dwarfing Russia’s hopes for having a special conference for it!

c- For all this, it can be said that the positive results of the summit meeting between the two leaders were very simple and were limited to returning the ambassadors of the two countries to each other’s capital, and a pledge regarding the START III (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), and that the improvement of relations between them depends on Russia’s next steps, that is, its concessions and mistakes, such as those that were in Russia’s strategic fault of assisting America in Syria. With President Putin’s announcement of his military intervention in Syria after his meeting with US President Obama in New York on 28/9/2015, Russia had thus offered its military services in favour of America, and perhaps Russia was motivated by its hatred against Islam and Muslims to fight in Syria, and perhaps it also rushed to end its international isolation after its occupation of Crimea in 2014 and the ensuing Western sanctions, but most importantly is that America has tasted the Russian military services and saw their importance in serving its influence in Syria, and that it has become greatly aspired to transfer this mission to the vicinity of China. Russia’s intervention in Syria, was while being aware of Bashar’s subordination for America, was a major strategic mistake that no rational leadership of any independent country would carry out.

d- As for America’s undeclared goals from its pressure on Russia, it is to make Russia an international stone in the American strategy against China, and if the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was the architect of Russia’s involvement in putting pressure on China and forcing it to coexist peacefully with America during the Vietnam War in the mid-sixties, in the last century, this senior American has been viewed by the American political circles as a strategic political thinker with insight into international politics. Therefore, in 2016, these circles arranged for him two important and separate meetings while he was in his nineties with the American presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and his recommendations were for them of the importance and necessity of engaging Russia and pushing it with America against China.

e- Despite the fact that these American goals are undeclared, America conveys them to Russia in one way or another and Russia understands them well. The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov emphasized (that the United States will not be able to turn Russia into a tool to serve its interests, and confront China… they discuss now, seriously, how to use Russia against China to their advantage… in the desire to make us a tool to serve the interests of the United States.” He added, “But of course this will not work for us.”) [RT 24/12/2018]

f- And, and this is precisely what America wants from Russia, so it pressures it and the atmosphere is tense with it, in application of Henry Kissinger’s theory of containing China by involving Russia. Otherwise, Russia does not compete with America, neither in the economy nor in international politics, and there is nothing in it of the major powers except the military machine. The US-Soviet and then the Russian treaties placed Russia’s military machine in the framework of discipline far from the threat to America. Indeed, America repudiated many treaties such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty held since 1972 and built its missile shield, Russia does not have a strong economy that qualifies it to further develop its military capabilities similar to the capabilities that America possesses… Thus, Russia’s nuclear and strategic capabilities were not the reason and motive for America’s tension in relations with it. Rather, this tension in relations with Russia was intended to pressure it to move away from China, which has become a center of great alertness to America, so the Minister of Defense Former Patrick Shanahan, called his army commanders to focus on China, saying “China, China, China” (Al-Jazeera Net, 3/1/2019)

g- Nevertheless, America, by straining relations with Russia, has so far failed to push Russia against China, especially since America’s pressure on Russia coincided with its pressure on China in the trade war, and this has created a Russian rapprochement with China… meaning that American pressure on Russia to force it to go along with it against China is having results opposite to what America wants, and it is undoubtedly aware of the danger of the Russian approach to rapprochement with China… Therefore, the Biden administration decided to put aside the method of “pressure” on Russia, and to replace it with the method of giving it a “glimmer of hope” through the summit meeting, and then removing the Russian-Chinese rapprochement as much as possible… and opening a large dialogue with it through the committees that were formed in the meeting of the two leaders.

4- Thus, Biden’s meeting with Putin is to achieve this goal, that is, to give a glimmer of hope to Putin in terms of removing American tension and sanctions pressures towards Russia as a way to support America in its stance towards China or at least to prevent Russian rapprochement with China. As for the other points of tension between the two countries, they do not deserve all that great importance, for example, the discussion between them about Syria and that America wants to solve the Syrian crisis as it wants, this is not opposed by Russia as long as it saves its face, as well as in Afghanistan, Russia is unable to ignite the ground under America’s feet in Afghanistan, as America ignited it against it during the eighties. Then, if Russia interfered in the American elections, this is due to the openness of the Internet as a new means of influence. Perhaps Russia underestimated the strength of America’s reaction, otherwise it would have moved away from that intervention. As for the cyber-attacks that America accuses Russia of carrying out, they do not have an effective effect that is difficult to solve; Biden responded to them after his summit with Putin that America has enormous capabilities to penetrate Russia and cause electronic/digital sabotage in it if Russia returns to penetration again, and gave an example of its ability to sabotage Russian oil pipelines…

5- The Russian President left Geneva knowing full well that America is awaiting Russia’s next steps in the coming months and that it is in the process of examining and managing those steps through the joint committees whose formation has been approved. The Russian President knows well that the American capabilities to pressure Russia are great and he experienced some of them. He also knows that China might leave him and head towards the West because its commercial interests in the West are much greater than its commercial interests with Russia. For all this, the coming months will most likely witness a breakthrough in American relations with Russia, with the return of ambassadors at the forefront, and it is also more likely that Russian-Chinese relations will take a cold path, as far as the warmth in Russia’s relations with America, this leaves coldness in its relations with China. If this is achieved, then US President Biden’s initiative to hold the summit with Russian President Putin will have put an end to the Russian rapprochement with China, and Russia has also put pressure on China, albeit to a lesser degree than America’s expectations according to Kissinger’s theory. If this is not achieved and the rebellion inside Russia led by Putin continues, the Biden administration is expected to double its pressure on Russia and threaten it with a belt of fire around it in the Caucasus, where the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, then Ukraine, and the West’s support for it to reunite its land…

Thus, these tyrannical countries, led by America, do not think about what is good for the people, but rather about what achieves their interests, even if they are fatal to the people.

[أُوْلَـئِكَ شَرٌّ مَّكَاناً وَأَضَلُّ عَن سَوَاء السَّبِيلِ]

“Those are worse in position and further astray from the sound way.” [Al-Ma’ida: 60]

9 Dhul Qi’dah 1442 AH – 20/6/2021 CE