With all reasonable precautions, there is little love between Russia and the United States this Valentine’s Day. The recent flurry of diplomacy between Russia and the West has been a failure with a series of recent high-profile meetings that have only led to further stagnation and reports that Putin is moving closer to military intervention.
At the weekend: A call on Saturday between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin – the US leader warned of “serious costs” if Russia invades – seemed to fall flat. This followed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s chat with UK Foreign Sec. Liz Truss, whom he characterized as a conversation between “the dumb and the deaf.” Meanwhile, France’s Emmanuel Macron, who has sought to position himself as Europe’s chief negotiator, made little progress in a weekend call with the Kremlin, and a previous meeting between the Normandy Four – Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France – failed to even agree. language for a joint declaration.
So why is diplomacy buzzing?
Russia and the West do not speak the same language of love.
As Russia has reinforced its military capabilities throughout Eastern Europe in recent weeks, US and European leaders have drawn on Western values to try to change the Kremlin’s behavior.
Biden says an invasion will make Moscow an international pariah, and Truss recently said London had “made it clear that Russia had to live up to the international commitments it had made.” But such rhetoric about the rule-based international order is no way to woo Russia: Putin – whose policy is centered on restoring control of Central and Eastern Europe – does not care much about the US-led international order, and he will hardly stay. influenced by soft-hearted appeals to post-World War II norms and values.
Some believe the Kremlin is ready to go head to head with the West. “Putin has prepared the country, including the economy, for some kind of long-term showdown with the West,” he said Joshua Yaffa, a Moscow-based correspondent for New Yorker. He points to the accumulation of the $ 630 billion reserve fund, “which could be used to mitigate the ruble from exchange rate shock” if Washington sanctions Russian financial institutions.
Is the vest completely bark and no bite?
Biden has repeatedly said he will not send US troops to defend Ukraine. For months, the White House has sounded the alarm about how urgent the Russian threat is, while highlighting the limits of what it is willing to do about it. This dynamic – not unlike a confused lover whining about betrayal but never on the way to the door – has encouraged Putin to increase military missions around Ukraine instead of retreating.
To be sure, Biden has threatened Russia with new economic ones sanctions if Moscow goes up in Ukraine. But disagreement between the United States and its European partners on how to respond to Russian aggression has only reinforced Putin’s view of Western weakness. The Kremlin knows that competing interests – including the tongues of some European states dependence on Russian raw materials – makes it very difficult for the West to coordinate an overall response.
Given the apparent reluctance of some Western allies to further confront Russia, can the United States handle it alone? Given Washington’s dominance over the international financial system, Yaffa believes the Biden administration has access to some “nuclear options” that could cause serious damage to the Russian economy. But “to the extent that the Western response is credible and lasting in the long run,” he adds, “[Washington] must be united “with other European capitals.
Enter Olaf. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Ukraine and Russia on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Given what is at stake in the relationship between Germany and Russia – especially the future of Nord Stream 2 pipeline – Putin may be inclined to try to find some common ground with the German leader. Can the two find love for Russia and the West? Whatever happens, Scholz’s shots at diplomacy will shed light on the likelihood of a diplomatic breakthrough – or breach – in the coming days.