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Cold peace: On first Biden-Putin Summit in Geneva

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June 20, 2021

What is the issue?

The Geneva summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has set a pragmatic tone for engagement between the two competing great powers.

Why is the meet so significant?

  • Relations between the US and Russia have hit the lowest point in recent years since the end of the Cold War.
  • The U.S. had accused Russia of interfering in its elections and launching cyberattacks.
  • Russia was also criticised on stifling of internal dissent.
  • On the other hand, Russia had slammed America’s “interventionist” foreign policy.
  • Given these differences, the summit gains significance.

What are the key outcomes?

  • Despite the differences, the leaders held talks on all critical issues, bringing diplomacy to the centre-stage.
  • Mr. Biden sought a more predictable, rational engagement, while Mr. Putin said relations were “primarily pragmatic”.
  • They have decided to return their Ambassadors to the Embassies.
  • The leaders also announced “a strategic stability dialogue” to discuss terms of arms control measures.
  • While there was no major breakthrough, they could at least demonstrate a willingness to strengthen engagement and reduce tensions.

What are the long-pending irritants?

  • There are many structural issues in the U.S.-Russia ties.
  • Russia ended its post-Soviet strategic retreat and adopted a more assertive foreign policy under Mr. Putin.
  • It did this partly in response to NATO expansion into eastern Europe.
  • The West saw this as a threat to its primacy.
  • The 2008 Georgia war practically ended the good terms between “democratic Russia” and the West.
  • The annexation of Crimea in 2014 again renewed the tensions.
  • Russia was thrown out of the G8, and western sanctions followed.
  • But such steps did not deter Mr. Putin.
  • Ties hit rock bottom after allegations on Russian cyberattacks and role in US elections.
  • Russia, which had amassed troops on the Ukraine border earlier in 2021, sees NATO’s expansion into its border region as a threat.

What is the way forward?

  • Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin cannot resolve these geopolitical and bilateral issues in one summit.
  • But they can certainly take measures to prevent relations from worsening.
  • Both countries should be ready to address their critical concerns and agree to a cold peace.
  • This would help in addressing other geopolitical problems such as Syria.
  • The U.S. should be less pessimistic about Russia’s foreign policy goals.
  • Permanent hostility with other powers cannot be of much help to Russia.
  • So, Mr. Putin should realise that if his goal is to restore Russia’s lost glory in global politics, he should be ready to cooperate with the West.


Source: The Hindu

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