Tatiana Mishina & Dmitry Ermakov
The online summit of Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, which was held behind closed doors, is overgrown with details. The American leader phoned his allies for several days. And on Wednesday he told rep-orters about the preparations for a meeting between the United States and the leading NATO countries with Russia. It looks like we are talking about a new one-plus-five format. Moscow has so far refrained from commenting.
Deal, exchange or concession
The talks by video link between Putin and Biden took place on December 7. After that, the presidents ordered to begin “substantive consultations on sensitive issues,” including the reliable and long-term security guarantees that are awaited in Moscow.
The very next day, Biden said that a meeting of representatives of Russia, the United States and four other NATO countries was possible. Most likely, we are talking about Germany, France, Britain, Italy.
Speaker of the White House Jen Psaki was asked to clarify the intentions of the American president and to clarify whether he is ready for a “deal or exchange” in the security sphere. She declined to answer directly, but emphasized the defensive nature of the alliance: “There are no aggressive plans against Russia, Biden conveyed this [to Moscow], NATO leaders conveyed this [to the Russian authorities]. Every step we take represents the defensive measures necessary to defend the allies.” Before and after the conversation with Putin, Biden called Paris to coordinate his position with the leaders of the European Union. It was helpful, said French President Emmanuel Ma-cron, but he will speak with the Russian leader himself next week. In the meantime, he points out that Biden’s efforts in Ukraine do not mean abandoning the “Normandy format”. German Foreign Mini-ster Annalena Berbock also called on to continue the di-alogue with Moscow. Mor-eover, within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council.
On the east flank – anxiety
However, the Eastern European countries took it with hostility. “One of the governments is furious and demands immediate clarification of exactly what President Biden is planning,” Bloomberg reported, citing diplomats who asked not to be named.
On Thursday, Biden held telephone calls simultaneously with the entire “Buc-harest Nine” (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Estonia). He explained to them his position and promised to deploy additional troops of the alliance in case of danger. “But today, tomorrow or in a month – of course, this was not discussed in a telephone conversation,” the Estonian president explained.
The fifth article of the NATO Charter was mentioned several times (an armed attack on one or several countries – members of the alliance will be considered as an attack on the entire bloc. – Ed.). “Biden emphasized that it is his sacred duty to fulfill this point. He repeated this several times,” one of the diplomats said.
Then, on Thursday, Biden spoke with the President of Ukraine. He assured that Washington supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and assured that no decisions on Ukraine can be made without Kiev. He promised to help in the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
“The leaders called on Russia to ease tensions and agreed that diplomacy is the best way to make significant progress in resolving the conflict,” the White House said.
As a result of this conversation, they even organized a special briefing for journalists. The psaki asked why the conversation with Zelensky took place two days after the conversation with Putin and later the negotiations with the European leaders, if it was “about an issue that so directly concerns Ukraine.” The president has “many other things on the agenda, including domestic ones,” a White House spokeswoman said.
Nevertheless, the conversation with President Zelensky was “very warm” and lasted for about an hour and a half. “I know that a lot of noise was raised in t-he press about whether th-ere were concessions or no-t. I’ll say very clearly – th-ere wasn’t,” Psaki emphasized. At the same time, according to the publication of the Associated Press, representatives of the State Department told Ukraine that its membership in NATO is unlikely to be approved in the next decade. At the same time, as noted by AP, the American leader is faced with the task of encouraging Kiev to accept some aspects of the situation in the east of the country.
Former US ambassador to Ukraine Stephen Pifer, for example, suggests that Washington will ask “to take some steps forward” on Donbass. We can talk about autonomy.
Give time to experts
Meanwhile, the Kremlin prefers not to “run ahead.” Speaking about the proposals following the summit, the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov noted: “<…> So far we are concentrating on the preparation of the main theses of our conceptual position.” How exactly the working group will be called, in his opinion, does not matter.
There is also no clear understanding of who will participate on the part of the United States and whether other NATO representatives will be involved.
“Let’s give our experts some time to share with y-ou not just slogans, but concrete facts and results of th-eir work. We will definitely do this, but give a little m-ore time,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.
However, it is already clear that Moscow will not offer NATO to secure permanent neutral status for certain countries in order to prevent the alliance from expanding to the east. “No, we are leading the question to the fact that in Russia we need legal guarantees of o-ur security in a global sen-se,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
A certain propaganda campaign has been launched in the United States, which distorts what actually happened, notes the Russian political scientist, former rector of the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Rogov. In the American media, he said, the emphasis is on Biden’s statement of support for Ukraine, including with weapons. The threat of additional sanctions stands out in particular.
“But the very fact that the heads of Russia and the United States are discussing the Ukrainian issue is of great importance,” the expert notes. “The current administration understands that the solution to the crisis is not in the sphere of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations, as Kiev requires, but lies between Washington and Moscow. An important point that the American media hardly mentions is that the US leadership has expressed its willingness to discuss Russian security concerns. I don’t remember the last time the United States publicly acknowledged that Russia might have interests in this area. ”
This is also indicated by Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai International Discussion Club: finally admitted. Previously, they preferred to talk only about Russia, which allegedly behaves incorrectly. “
But, in Lukyanov’s opinion, this initiative has already encountered systemic resistance within the United States. Rogov agr-ees: “Naturally, the Amer-ican president is being attacked by the Republic-ans and a number of figures from his own party for allegedly showing gentleness. And it is not yet clear how thick Biden has to withstand such pressure.”
However, public recognition of the need to implement the Minsk agreements, which Kiev is sabotaging, is already a good signal. This means that the “Normandy format” will soon come to life.
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