Russia-USA: negotiations will not be easy

MOSCOW, 30 Dec 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

After the Russian proposals for the United States and NATO on security guarantees, which some experts managed to nickname an ultimatum, Western officials sent signals that they were ready to consider these proposals. However, the situation is not developing as simply as many would like. The information background accompanying the Russian-American dialogue cannot be called conciliatory, so this topic requires close attention.

Immediately after the draft agreements between Russia and the United States on security guarantees and agreements on measures to ensure the security of Russia and NATO member states announced on December 17 by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Assistant to the US President for National Security Jake Sullivan said that the American side is ready for dialogue with Russia on security issues in Europe.

On Monday, December 20, Sullivan spoke by phone with Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov. During the conversation, they discussed negotiations on the security guarantees proposed by Russia. On December 23, the American Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan confirmed the negotiating position.

“Together with our NATO allies and partners, we are ready to interact with the Russian authorities and discuss the problems they have voiced,” he said in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper. On the same day, information appeared from the American side that they were ready to enter into “diplomatic cooperation” in early January.

The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrel, also called for dialogue with Russia on the architecture of European security. Even NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who on December 19 spoke out against the “idea of a conference with Russia on spheres of influence”, on December 24 already expressed readiness for negotiations with Moscow within the framework of the Russia–NATO Council. Apparently, an explanatory conversation was held with the likely head of the Central Bank of Norway.

At the same time, on December 20, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby announced the return from Ukraine of a group of representatives of the US Department of Defence, who carried out an assessment of Ukrainian air defence. One of the American profile magazines indicated that the US military was sent in response to the request of the Minister of Defence of Ukraine Aleksey Reznikov when he visited Washington on November 19.

A group of Pentagon representatives arrived in Ukraine on November 29 and in early December, the Ukrainian military confirmed that they were working with the Americans on the issue of air defence combat capability “to find solutions for the short and long term”. I note that the unrecognised republics of the DPR and LPR do not have aviation, which means that the Pentagon assessed Ukraine’s ability to counter the Russian Air Force. In the United States, the issue of the supply of “Stinger” portable air defence systems for the Ukrainian army is currently being discussed.

So far, according to publications in the Western media, there is no sign of the public being prepared to accept possible compromises between the United States and Russia on security issues. Already after the voiced agreement to bilateral negotiations, the New York Times published an article entitled “How the Kremlin Is Militarizing Russian Society,” which says that the Russian leadership of the country is preparing Russians for military conflict through patriotic pumping with the help of state media.

The Guardian published an editorial, “Russia’s Nato demands: upping the ante”, in which it tries to convince the reader that Moscow is showing an “aggressively revanchist mood”, has decided to “force a crisis” around Ukraine and that the “sabre-rattling reflects a new determination to reassert Moscow’s eroded authority in what Mr Putin considers Russia’s legitimate ‘sphere of influence’”. Recently, a journalist from The Guardian visited Ukrainian positions in Donbass and filmed a propaganda video on this occasion.

The other day, the German magazine Spiegel published an article entitled “The Putin Doctrine“, which says that the collapse of the “Soviet Empire” was a tragedy for Vladimir Putin, and 30 years later, the Russian president no longer wants to admit its consequences. Now, with the concentration of troops, he is signalling to the West that “Crimea can now repeat itself anywhere”.

The French Le Figaro writes in about the same spirit in the editorial “Russia: dust of the empire“, telling about the “bloody paw of the Russian bear” in Chechnya, Georgia and now in Ukraine.

On December 23, Bloomberg published new satellite images from Jane’s, which allegedly captured Russian tanks, artillery and air defence systems “in the border areas near Ukraine”. “If Russia decides to invade, they can do so on relatively short notice,” Rob Lee, a fellow at the U.S-based Foreign Policy Research Institute told Bloomberg.

Simultaneously with Bloomberg, Politico magazine published satellite images of Maxar Technologies with Russian equipment “near the border of Ukraine”. Dara Massicot, a senior policy fellow at the RAND Corporation and a former employee of the Obama administration’s Department of Defence, commented for Politico on the situation regarding Ukraine as follows:

“Russia is using the threat of force and an artificially imposed diplomatic urgency to set the pace and force concessions, and is essentially creating a hostage situation.”

In one of the previous materials, it was pointed out that it was from Politico magazine that the hysteria about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine began, and this may be the play of certain forces in the US Democratic Party, going against the goals of the White House.

Recently, characteristic articles have been published in this magazine, such as “Europe remembers its forgotten war“, “Will Putin invade?“, where there are attempts to remind readers the history of the conflict in Ukraine and the fact that there is shelling in Donbass to this day. This is done without any attempts to reflect the situation from the point of view of the unrecognised republics, only from pro-Ukrainian positions.

Reviewing these publications, it becomes alarming for the future of Russian-American negotiations on security issues. Without the preparation of the Western public for compromises with Russia, it will be very difficult for the United States to promote and legitimise possible agreements. Especially when the flow of reproaches to the White House from representatives of the Republican Party about the weakness of the United States in the international arena after the truly disastrous withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan does not stop.

Thus, the appearance in the central Western media of articles with at least a neutral assessment of Russia on its proposals on security issues in Europe could be a signal of the West’s willingness to compromise. But it’s not there yet. As Putin put it, the West can simply “kick the negotiations into the long grass”, and this is unacceptable for the Russian side.

During the annual press conference on December 23, Putin said that sometimes there is a feeling that Russia and the West live in different worlds.

“In the 1990s, we were completely open to cooperation – and what is the result? The West’s support for terrorism in the North Caucasus, aspirations for the further disintegration of our country, the expansion of NATO. Why did you do this year after year, ignoring our concerns? Now we just want to ensure our safety. No, go away with your worries! We will do what we think is necessary,” the Russian president said. We need to be fully prepared for such a scenario.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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