I concluded last week’s column by stating that the expectations for the Biden-Putin Summit were relatively low. Well lo and behold, now that the summit has come and gone, analyses are being made that Biden was unable to clearly convey to Putin the U.S.’ “red lines.” Anti-Russia hawks in Washington are now accusing Biden of trying to placate Putin. Biden, however, insists that the summit bore constructive results. CNN journalist Kaitlan Collins had asked Biden, “Why are you so confident [Putin] will change his behavior, Mr. President?” Biden, in turn, berated Collins by saying, “What the hell? … When did I say I was confident?” but later apologized for his behavior.
Some analysts are interpreting the Geneva Summit as “neither a victory, nor a disaster” for either leader. The only positive outcome that emerged, on the other hand, was the agreement reached that the U.S.’ Russia ambassador return to Moscow, and similarly that Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. return to Washington. Both leaders highlighted their hope of sustaining the “strategic stability dialogue.” We all know that wishes and hopes denote in no such way a plan when it comes to foreign policy.
It is well known, that ever since the early 2000s Biden has been extremely skeptical when it comes to Putin. In my column last week I had mentioned that Biden had published a vitriolic article in Foreign Affairs magazine on Russia and Putin. The article revealed Biden’s approach toward Russia, however the Turks have a famous saying that goes: “The head that wears the crown grows wise.” It perfectly describes Biden’s reluctance to bark at Putin during the Geneva Summit.
Biden saying, “All foreign policy is the logical extension of personal relationships. It’s the way human nature functions,” following the Summit is also being hotly debated. As a matter of fact, Eric Edelman, who served as Deputy Secretary of State for Policy in the Ministry of Defense during the George W. Bush era, interpreted Biden's statements in an article he published on June 17 in The Bulwark, one of the new media organs of former anti-Trump neocons. He titled the article “How We’ll Know If the Biden-Putin Summit Was a Success,” and wrote: “Why foreign policy is not just ‘a logical extension of personal relationships.’”
At the very beginning of his piece he writes, “The Biden administration set the bar so low for the president’s Geneva summit with Vladimir Putin that it was pretty much foreordained to be a “success.” Edelman also touches on his disdain for Biden branding Putin as a “worthy adversary.” According to him, this won’t serve to prime Putin to alter his behavior toward the U.S. and the West, quite the contrary in fact.
Another point Edelman draws our attention to is the fact that the Biden administration has been unable to reach a political consensus on the country’s Russia policy. He goes on to say that the Biden administration is divided by two opposite approaches. On the one hand, some lawmakers defend incorporating a hardline policy against Moscow, and on the other there are those lawmakers prioritizing the U.S.’ commercial interests when it comes to relations with countries like Russia and China, and who want the U.S. to adopt a more nuanced approach with Russia like their German ally.
Another suggestion voiced by the American press is that the U.S. should have implemented a “silent but effective political war” against Russia. An article titled “Here’s How Biden Can Wage Political Warfare Against Putin” and published yet again in the Bulwark by Kristofer Harrison, who served in the George W. bush era in the secretaries of state and defense, listed “five strategies for putting Putin in a box.” Harrison recommended turning Russia's internal problems into a "national one." In addition to creating anti-Putin media networks, Harrison also asked Biden to find a way to unplug Russia's natural gas pipeline project, the Nord Stream-2. All these proposals include the active application of the "Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act," which allows for U.S. sanctions against Russia. Of course, it should be remembered that the law in question was enacted with the cooperation of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress during the Presidency of Barack Obama.