US seeks to ease tensions at Biden-Putin summit as anti-China campaign intensifies
Summit talks between US President Joseph Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended Wednesday with statements from heads of state that the dialogue had been “good”, “positive” and “fairly constructive”. Amid the escalating US war campaign against China, Washington appears to be trying to ease tensions with the Kremlin.
The ultimate goal of such an effort – over which huge question marks hang – is to disrupt Moscow’s deepening economic, political and military ties with Beijing in order to isolate China for war. The talks took place just after the conclusion of the G7 and NATO meetings in which China was identified as the main target of world imperialism.
Speaking in separate press conferences on Wednesday, Biden and Putin said their more than two-hour discussion covered a range of topics, including nuclear deals, the conflict in Ukraine, competition in the Arctic, cybersecurity, human rights and economic ties. While providing few details, each indicated that further high-level discussions would take place with the aim of restoring “strategic stability”. Relations with the ambassadors, which were severed in March after Biden called Putin a “killer,” will be restored. The new START treaty is due to be extended until 2024. Bilateral task forces will be created to fight arms control and ransomware attacks.
As for Ukraine, no mention has been made of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that the United States and Europe accuse Russia of illegally seizing. In addition, the two sides declared their commitment to implement the Minsk Protocol, agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 that lay the groundwork for a negotiated settlement on the status of Donbass, a region in eastern China. Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists who came to power after the staging of a far-right US-backed coup in Kiev.
The Ukrainian government, which recently moved troops and military equipment to the disputed area and said it intended to retake Crimea by force, has repeatedly expressed opposition to the implementation of the agreements from Minsk. Minsk’s approval on Wednesday follows Biden’s pre-summit statement that Kiev was “not ready” to join NATO, to which the country hysterically called for admission. After years of strident anti-Russian rhetoric from Washington on Moscow’s “violations” of Ukrainian sovereignty, it appears that the country and its hardline nationalist leaders have been sidelined – at least temporarily – in the interests of Russia. the pursuit of broader geopolitical goals by the United States.
Although he has been repeatedly urged by reporters to make statements hostile to his Russian counterpart and to say that the United States has threatened “military consequences” on further suspected cyber attacks, the US president said that “No threat” had been uttered and that the head of the Kremlin offered to “help” on issues related to Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. Relatively little has been said about Alexei Navalny, the highly regarded “pro-democracy” opponent, although Biden has indicated it would be wrong if he died.
The American press at Biden’s event seemed genuinely disappointed that there was less bloodshed. Many American media and the ruling establishment had predicted that Trump’s replacement by Biden would signal a tougher policy towards Moscow.
A tactical change in Washington’s relations with Russia will provoke internal and foreign conflicts. A preview of this was on display on Wednesday. Just as Putin wrapped up his press conference, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters: “We believe that a renewed partnership allows us to realize the full potential of close cooperation with Russia is a distant prospect “. He said the EU anticipated a “further slowdown in our relations” with Moscow.
Whatever tactical maneuver Washington attempts to execute, its willingness to strike Moscow has also been clearly established. Biden warned Putin that if he did not live up to “international standards” his “worldwide credibility” would diminish and there would be “consequences.” The United States has an immense capacity to start a cyber war, observed the American leader, noting, in particular, the vulnerability of the Russian oil industry.
Putin pointed to American support for organizations building “democracy” in Russia, which he said were little more than puppets of American foreign policy. While downplaying the previous description of Biden as a murderer and human rights violator, the Russian president pointed to the killings of police officers in the United States, the deaths of innocent civilians in drone strikes, the existence of CIA black sites and continued Guantanamo Bay operations as examples of American hypocrisy on human rights issues.
Under the superficial appearance of cordiality that the two leaders tried to project on Wednesday lurk explosive tensions. At the time of the summit, NATO was conducting its largest military exercises ever, explicitly directed against Russia. The United States has stepped up its military presence in Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Arctic, and in May, the Biden administration released a military budget proposal that would take U.S. arms spending to record levels. Russia recently declared the creation of 20 new anti-NATO military divisions, to be stationed on its western borders. This summer, it reviewed the combat capability and readiness of its land, air and naval forces nationwide.
In his remarks Wednesday, the US president said some expected to hear “Biden said he would invade Russia,” a remark that unwittingly exposed the very real threats of war surrounding the summit. Whether through direct military conflict, the use of ethnic and national differences to break up the country, or the promotion of internal conflict – or all three – Russia remains in the sights of US imperialism, which considers its domination of much of the Eurasian landmass as an intolerable limit to the appetites of US imperialism.
But what is increasingly coming to the fore, as demonstrated at the G7 summit, is the feeling that China must be the first target in America’s preparation for war. The Wuhan Laboratory Theory, which over the past two months has been placed at the center of U.S. and European foreign policy, lays the groundwork for the argument that Beijing is responsible for the deaths of millions of people. It follows endless accusations that China is manipulating its currency, violating international trade conventions, pursuing control of East Asian sea lanes, repealing human rights conventions, and more.
There are strong concerns in Washington that the United States cannot sustain a war on two fronts. To the extent that the anti-Russian campaign has encouraged closer ties between Moscow and Beijing, it has raised fears that US imperialism is biting more than it can chew.
For its part, the Russian ruling class is in a growing state of disarray as to what to do in the face of the inter-imperialist conflict in which it finds itself trapped. There are divisions inside and outside the Kremlin over the country’s relations with China and the United States. Russia is eclipsed in every way by its much larger neighbor. For years, Putin sought a friendlier relationship with the United States, constantly referring to his “friends” across the Atlantic even as tensions with Washington grew.
Biden himself identified the crisis facing Moscow when asked if a new “cold war” was emerging in US-Russian relations. In response, he observed that Russia has âa border of several thousand kilometers with China. China is moving forwardâ¦ seeks to be the most powerful economy in the world â, butâ the Russian economy is in trouble â. ” I do not think so [Putin] seeks a cold war with the United States, âBiden said.
Regardless of what one “seeks”, war has its own logic. Tactical twists aside, it’s clear that the will of the American ruling class to defend its declining global hegemony threatens the world with a massive military conflagration.