August 3, 2021

Between Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutin, a reunion under the sign of mistrust

There are advantages to being the most experienced foreign policy president in thirty years. As he prepares to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Poutin in Geneva on Wednesday June 16, at the end of his tour in Europe, Joe Biden has the memory of past disillusions. They inspire realism. No vain operation of seduction to wait. No project « reset », of radical reconfiguration of the relationship between Washington and Moscow, as attempted by Barack Obama (2009-2017), or before him, George W. Bush (2001-2009).

The National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, Jake Sullivan, has dismissed the hypothesis of short-term results, “Because if you expect really important ones, you risk waiting a long time”, he estimated on June 7, before the departure of the American delegation to Europe. No joint press conference between the two leaders is also planned. Denying all “Reward” granted to Moscow by the simple holding of the summit, Jake Sullivan summed up the objective in a concise manner: “To be able to look President Putin in the eye and tell him: ‘here are the American expectations'”.

These were formulated as soon as the meeting was announced: a relationship “Stable and predictable”. A wishful thinking, according to Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Moscow, between 2012 and 2014. “Judging by his actions, Putin doesn’t want a stable, predictable or normal relationship with Washington. He needs the United States as an enemy ”, he wrote in the Washington Post, June 3.

Two irreconcilable visions

Two visions in fact clash, irreconcilable. Vladimir Poutine has been challenging for twenty years the hegemony sought, according to him, by the United States in world affairs, the advance of NATO to the Russian borders, or support for “Color revolutions” in its vicinity. While all critical voices are stifled in Russia, the Kremlin now refuses any dialogue on human rights. Mr. Putin’s latest rhetorical trick is to stand up for supporters of former President Donald Trump, presented as peaceful, who stormed the Capitol in Washington on January 6 in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Facing him, the new American administration places at the heart of its foreign policy the defense of democracies against authoritarian regimes like his. She notes that the Russian president’s activism is no longer limited to interventions in his immediate area of ​​influence, such as in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014), to which is added the protection granted to Alexander Lukashenko, who is leading a merciless repression in Belarus.

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