During an interview with Axios, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Biden would be able to outplay Putin and "save" Ukraine. However, we should not expect something supernatural from their meeting, because its main goal is to prevent a more serious deterioration in US-Russian relations, to give them greater stability, and to try to agree on issues where the US and the Russian Federation can mutually cooperate.
In search of relaxation
Biden is interested in reducing the degree of tension in US-Russian relations. He will not return to Barack Obama's "reset" policy, but will try to build a channel of communication with Putin on problematic issues. The owner of the Oval Office wants Russia not to create unnecessary problems for him in the world, not to distract attention from other issues with its provocations.
The Biden administration is irritated by the increasing number of hacker attacks against US government agencies and businesses. With their help, the Kremlin exposes the vulnerability of the United States in all possible areas and plays on the nerves of American officials. In December 2020, it became known about a hacker attack against the software developer SolarWinds, which is used by the authorities. Russian hackers gained access to confidential information and among the victims 9 US government agencies, including the Treasury, Trade, Homeland Security, 100 companies. The United States reacted with sanctions against individuals and companies and expelled Russian diplomats. Russia - expelled 10 US diplomats and imposed sanctions on former and current US officials, including FBI Director Christopher Ray.
The Russian trail is being sought in the DarkSide group's cyberattack against the Colonial Pipeline system, the Nobelium group's cyberattack against 150 organizations, including USAID in May 2021, the Brazilian meat producer JBS, which exports to America.
The nuclear nonproliferation regime is in crisis. At the beginning of the year, Biden and Putin agreed to extend the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3) for five years, but the question of returning Russia and the United States to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty remains open. The 1987 year. NATO sees a threat in the Russian Iskander tactical complexes in the Kaliningrad region and the 9M729 Novator cruise missiles.
According to the James Martin Center for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the range of this missile exceeds 500 km, which is beyond the scope of the treaty. Former director of national intelligence Daniel Coates believes that the Novator rocket is capable of carrying a nuclear charge. Russia sees a threat in US Aegis air defenses in Romania, and there is a stereotype in political circles that launchers can allegedly be used to launch intermediate and shorter-range missiles and be offensive.
There is a misunderstanding between the United States and Russia on the issue of human rights and democratic freedoms. The poisoning and arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was the reason for the imposition of US and EU sanctions against Russian officials and businesses. If for Biden the protection of human rights and democracy is a question of the reputation of the US Democratic Party, then the Russian authorities perceive the West's demand to release Navalny as interference in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation.
Finally, the United States and Russia have completely different understandings of the goals of the sanctions. The Kremlin perceives sanctions as discrimination against Russia and a problematic issue, a manifestation of discrimination. The Biden administration views sanctions as a means of responding to Russian provocations. White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed that the upcoming meeting is not encouragement from the Russian Federation. Biden is cool about Putin, considers Russia an authoritarian country, but in the current realities, he understands that in some issues he cannot do without his assistance.
Competition with China
Biden needs stability and predictability in relations with the Russian Federation to more effectively contain the military, technological power, and economic influence of China, which is perceived as America's main competitor. Since the presidency of Richard Nixon, Americans have been holding back the rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing. During the Cold War, the United States tried to interest China to keep its distance from the USSR. In the current conditions, Biden is interested in Russia being neutral in the US-China confrontation. The meeting between Biden and Putin will symbolically take place on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 23, 1921.
The Celestial Empire views the Russian Federation as a junior "comrade in misfortune" in the context of deteriorating relations with the US and the EU. Both countries are under Western sanctions. Russia is an accessible source of military technology. In the PRC, supplies of multifunctional Su-35 fighters and S-400 anti-missile systems were carried out. China copied the combat systems of Russian warships when developing its frigates. The countries cooperate in the field of biotechnology, medicine, pharmaceuticals.
The Russian government is modernizing the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Mainlines to reduce dependence on the European market and increase traffic to China and other Asian countries. Today China is the main market for Russian coal. Russia and China cooperate in the field of container transportation from Asia to Europe. The countries are cooperating in space exploration and are planning to build a station on the moon.
According to Putin, one of the topics of the talks with Biden will be cooperation in resolving a number of regional crises.
Russia participates in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Action Plan on limiting Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting the sanctions and may influence the Iranian side's pliability to return to the fulfillment of its conditions. The Russian Federation enjoys prestige in Iran, since it assisted in the construction of the first power unit of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, offered an alternative settlement mechanism with Iranian firms bypassing American sanctions, and has provided Iranians with humanitarian assistance since 2020 in overcoming the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Russia and Iran support one and the same side in the Syrian conflict - the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. In 2020, trade between Russia and Iran increased from $ 1.7 billion to $ 2.2 billion. Tehran is interested in purchasing weapons from the Russian Federation.
Moscow can assume the role of mediator in the settlement of the armed conflict in Afghanistan between government forces and the Taliban after the withdrawal of the US military and its allies. How effective this will be is a moot point, but the Russian Federation has contacts with the Taliban. Since 2017, consultations have been held in Moscow with the participation of representatives of the Taliban, the Afghan authorities, observers from the United States, Pakistan, India, Iran, China, and the republics of Central Asia. The Moscow format provides an opportunity to exchange views on the future development of Afghanistan with the participation of regional players. According to the American intelligence services, in recent years the Russian Federation has supplied the Taliban with small consignments of weapons and ammunition, provided financial assistance, and even paid for the killings of the American military in order to fuel sentiments in favor of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The Russian Federation can play a similar role in a new round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. A coalition has come to power in Israel with the participation of the parties "Yesh Atid" and the "Joint Arab List", which renounce claims to Palestinian territories and support the coexistence of a Jewish and Palestinian state. The leadership of the terrorist organization Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, periodically visit Moscow. President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas maintains contacts with Putin and sometimes gives interviews to the Russia Today and Russia 24 TV channels. The US has no influence over Hamas. The Biden administration is trying to mend relations with the partially recognized State of Palestine, which remains difficult. In April 2021, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced $ 235 million in financial aid to the Palestinians. Under Trump, the United States stopped giving money to Palestine.
In Syria, there is a risk of local military clashes between the troops of Russia and the United States. In August 2020, in northeastern Syria, in the area of the International Anti-Terrorist Coalition, a Russian armored vehicle collided with an American armored car. The parties accused each other of persecuting and trying to obstruct the movement. In May 2021, the Russian military police blocked the movement of an American military convoy in the Al-Hasakah area. Muscle flexing in a third country is not conducive to a stable and predictable relationship.
Rising tensions in US-Russian relations are provoking an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. In the spring, the United States brought to full combat readiness the American troops stationed in Europe against the background of intensified shelling in the Donbas and the pulling of Russian troops to the borders of Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov does not exclude that Biden and Putin will discuss the Ukrainian issue. Biden has been familiar with the specifics of the conflict since his tenure as vice president and is unlikely to expect to convince Putin to comply with the Minsk agreements. At best, we can talk about freezing the conflict for an indefinite future.
Is bargaining appropriate?
It is unlikely that Putin will agree to change his line of behavior and go to a meeting with Biden on problematic issues without receiving anything in return. The Russian president has already said that sanctions remain a problematic point in relations between Russia and the United States. At the same time, it is not profitable for Biden to make unilateral concessions to Russia and soften restrictive measures. After all, he is trying to get out of Obama's shadow and present himself as a tough leader.
Biden will bargain with Putin, and the subject of bargaining will be Nord Stream 2. Biden has postponed the introduction of sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the pipeline. Putin said that he and Biden could discuss solutions to environmental problems. Nord Stream 2 fits into this issue, as does the fact that Russia ranks fourth in the world in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to the German Green Party, the construction of the gas pipeline has led to the pollution of the Baltic Sea.
If Biden can agree with Putin on all issues of interest, then there will be no sanctions affecting Nord Stream 2. During a telephone conversation between Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on June 7, Nord Stream 2 was discussed. Zelensky called it a security threat. This was a signal to Putin to be more accommodating during the meeting. Otherwise, the American president will change his position on Nord Stream 2 and initiate sanctions, despite the fact that the pipeline is almost completed.