Biden-Putin Summit


    In News

    Recently, the U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their summit meeting at Geneva, Switzerland.


    About the Summit

    • The leaders of both the countries met at a highly anticipated summit at a time when both leaders say relations between their countries are at an all-time low.
    • The US sought for a more predictable relationship between the “two great powers”.
    • The leaders decided to return their Ambassadors in an attempt to lower tensions and follow up bilateral engagements with “a strategic stability dialogue” on arms reduction.


    Plunging US-Russia Ties

    • When Russia ended its post-Soviet strategic retreat and adopted a more assertive foreign policy, partly in response to NATO expansion into eastern Europe, the West saw it as a threat to its primacy
    • The 2008 Georgia war practically ended the camaraderie between “democratic Russia” and the West. 
    • The annexation of Crimea in 2014 renewed tensions. Russia was thrown out of the G8, and western sanctions followed. 
    • Ties hit rock bottom after allegations that Russian intelligence units had carried out cyberattacks and run an online campaign to get Donald Trump elected President in the 2016 U.S. election.
    • Ties between the two countries, as both leaders have admitted, are at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. 


    Recent Tensions

    • Today, there are structural issues in the U.S.-Russia ties.
    • In March 2021, after assuming the White House, Mr. Biden described Mr. Putin as a “killer”. He also said the Russian leader was “going to pay” for the “interference” in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
    • Russia is reeling under Western sanctions and seems determined to resist any move by NATO to expand into its backyard.
    • Ukraine remains an unresolved crisis. Earlier this year, Russia had assembled Russian troops on the Ukraine border in a direct challenge to the US
    • Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. was recalled from Washington about three months ago after Biden described Mr. Putin as a killer. 
    • The U.S. Ambassador to Russia left Moscow almost two months ago after Russia suggested he return to Washington for consultations.
    • The bilateral relations between the two countries had practically collapsed after the recalling of Ambassadors by both countries.
    • On the other side, Russia was steadily deepening its partnership with China.


    Significance of the Summit

    • Easing the hostility: One summit doesn’t resolve the serious foreign policy differences between the two former Cold War rivals, but both leaders have sought to ease the hostility. These geopolitical and bilateral issues cannot be resolved instantly but they can certainly take measures to prevent relations from worsening. 
    • Dealing with China’s Challenge: With the China challenge in the background, the Geneva summit suggests that policymakers in the US have at least started thinking of Russia as a secondary challenge that needs to be tackled diplomatically, not only through coercion, if the U.S. wants to take on a rising China.
    • Diplomatic Engagement with Russia: The US and Russia must reset their relationship to pragmatic levels and reduce tensions. The Geneva summit between the US President and his Russian counterpart has set a pragmatic tone for engagement between the two competing powers. 
    • Move to Reduce Tensions: Despite the differences, the leaders held talks on all critical issues, bringing diplomacy to the centre-stage. It’s too early to see any meaningful change in Russia-U.S. relations. While there was no major breakthrough, which was not expected anyway, they could at least demonstrate a willingness to strengthen engagement and reduce tensions.


    The US: Main focus on China

    • The US is reorienting American foreign policy to deal with the China challenge more effectively. 
    • In this regard, the US ended America’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and is pulling back all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
    • In March 2021, the US called the first summit of Quad countries – the U.S., India, Japan and Australia – which decided to boost vaccine production to help other countries. 
    • The U.S. Congress passed the $250 billion tech and manufacturing Bill, which would ensure funds for the semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing initiatives. The aim is undoubtedly to counter China. 
    • And then, The US President travelled to Europe to rally reluctant allies around the U.S. in the emerging geopolitical contest with China.
    • When the US moves forward, focusing on China, Russia remains a distraction


    Western alliance: Targeting China

    • When the US president went to Europe, the focus was on China – a sign of the emerging shifts in the global power balance. 
    • Mr. Biden held a host of talks with separate blocs in Europe – the Group of Seven (G7), NATO and the EU, with a focus on strengthening the western alliance.
    • The G7 industrialised nations — the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan — issued a communique slamming China’s human rights records. 
    • Issues such as the detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, growing tensions with Taiwan and the alleged lack of transparency on Covid-19 were all mentioned in the G7 statement.
    • The 30-member NATO, whose traditional focus has been on Russia, has also issued a statement in which China has been mentioned multiple times. 
    • NATO members warned against the “systemic challenges to the rules-based international order” emanating from China’s rise. 
    • The U.S. and the 27-member EU have decided to cooperate more on technology, regulation, industrial development and trade in an attempt to help the West compete better with China. They have also decided to set up a high-level trade and technology council, which would boost innovation and investment.


    Way Forward

    • The message from the Summit is that the leaders wanted to establish rules of engagement so that the countries can better address their differences and seek common ground on issues of mutual interest. 
    • The US should be less pessimistic about Russia’s foreign policy goals. Whether the US likes it or not, Russia, despite its weakened economic status, remains a great power. With some predictability in ties with Russia, the US can strengthen his China-focussed foreign policy.
    • If Russia wants to restore its lost glory in global politics, then it should be ready to cooperate with the West. Permanent hostility with other powers cannot be of much help to Russia. And with a less hostile America, Russia can retain Russian influence in the country’s backyard.
    • Both countries should be ready to address their critical concerns and agree to a cold peace, which would help in addressing other geopolitical problems such as Syria.


    START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)

    • It was a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union on the reduction and the limitation of strategic offensive arms. 
    • The treaty was signed on 31 July 1991 and entered into force on 5 December 1994. 
    • The treaty barred its signatories from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and a total of 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.


    New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) 

    • It is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation
    • It was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague, and, after ratification, entered into force on 5 February 2011.
    • It is expected to last until 2026, having been extended in 2021.
    • New START replaced the Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was to expire in December 2012. 
    • It follows the START I treaty, which expired in December 2009; the proposed START II treaty, which never entered into force; and the START III treaty, for which negotiations were never concluded.
    • The treaty calls for halving the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers. 
    • A new inspection and verification regime will be established, replacing the SORT mechanism. 


    Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)

    • The Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation.
    • It was also known as the Treaty of Moscow.
    • It was a strategic arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia that was in force from June 2003 until February 2011 when it was superseded by the New START treaty.


    Sources: TH