On the eve of a video call between the presidents of Russia and the United States scheduled for December 7, the influential Atlantic Council think tank has written a scenario for Biden
What to offer in talks, what to threaten, stick, carrot – all in full assortment. In recent years Joe Biden has masterfully learned to sound a teleprompter, and this is the kind of cheat sheet for him that the Atlantic Council article looks like.
What do Americans want? First of all, that Russia immediately withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine. It’s OK that the troops are on Russian territory, in the American perception they “threaten” Ukraine, so they should be removed somewhere far away. At the same time there is not a word about Ukrainian troops. Kiev is by no means committing to withdraw its armed units from Donbass.
Next, Russia must stop “threatening” Ukraine altogether. Translated into Russian: Moscow should passively watch as the territory of Ukraine is being built up with American and British military bases and secret bio-laboratories, as the Americans ship Javelins there on an industrial scale and develop the kind of comprehensive military cooperation that even many NATO member states happily avoid.
At the same time Russia is obliged to provide Ukraine with gas, coal and whatever else it needs from now on. Otherwise it will be regarded as militaristic blackmail for hydrocarbons. Should Ukraine join NATO, Moscow should approve or at least remain silent. This would be good, workable, “non-threatening” behaviour.
Should Russia go along with this, the United States promises to be personally involved in the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Only these will not be the same agreements as those signed in Minsk and guaranteed by Germany and France.
In the American version, it is proposed to make Donbas an “international zone”. The political demands of the republics – for a special status within Ukraine and for the possibility of vetoing the country’s foreign policy – will not be met. The entire leadership of the LNR and DNR would be replaced by an “international civilian transitional administration”. Militias will be disarmed and militias disbanded. Their place will be taken by international peacekeepers. Under their watchful eye, elections will be held in Donbass and a “professional police force” will be formed. Thus, control of the Ukrainian-Russian border will pass smoothly to some international peacekeepers, and from them to Kiev – without fulfilling all the conditions that are written in black and white in the Minsk agreements. “And we’ll hang them afterwards.” Uh-huh.
If Russia agrees to this, Washington will promise to supply Kiev with fewer weapons, lift some sanctions on Russia, and establish cooperation between NATO and Russia to address Moscow’s concerns about NATO advancing eastward.
These were, if you have not already guessed, carrots from our American partners. However, the authors of the concept of “containing Russia” also had a stick. They have a very strong suspicion that such conditions are unacceptable to Moscow.
If Russia refuses to comply with them, Ukraine will continue to be pumped with weapons. Apart from the Javelins, the list includes air and coastal defence systems, electronic warfare systems and equipment, counter-guided artillery and counter-battery radars. NATO forces will be present in Ukraine on a rotational basis, and training the Ukrainian army to “deter Russia” will be a top priority of NATO strategy for 2022. It does not matter what France and Germany think about it.
In the long term, it is proposed to strangle Russia for its fictitious “aggression” with sanctions. It was time to make sure that neither the 2014 sanctions package nor the “sanctions from hell” of 2019 have changed Russia’s policy. But there is room for improvement.
The new economic measures include a ban on financing for Gazprom and its subsidiaries – but without completely blocking gas supplies to Europe. A wider range of financial actions against Rosneft subsidiaries – but again without blocking supplies altogether. Surgutneftegaz and Novatek are also proposed to be sacrificed.
Russia’s mining and metallurgy sectors are not yet covered by sanctions to the scale they should be. The Atlantic Council suggests looking at Evraz and Alrosa as well as Russia’s largest insurer Sogaz and the cargo carrier Sovcomflot.
And, of course, Nord Stream 2. It has always been, according to the Americans, a “bad idea”, and now “containing Russia” requires Germany to impose a moratorium on its operation.
The idea of disconnecting Russia from SWIFT has also surfaced again. “This topic is still in play, it will be a last resort,” says former US ambassador to Kiev John Herbst.
“Yes, European companies may experience some pain in the sanctions process,” admit US analysts. – “But a determination to resist Putin’s aggression <…> and to work together as one transatlantic community is the best way to deter the Kremlin.
“Working together” is one of the Atlantic Council’s most frequent mantras. Yet the Americans display the highest, outright incurable level of political autism. Their allies France and Germany do not want Ukraine’s membership of NATO. The Europeans do not want to suffer from Russian gas supply disruptions and idiotic sanctions that cripple their economy far more than they do Russia’s. And no one – not the Europeans, not the Americans, not even the Ukrainians – wants to go to war on command from Washington.
A page of humour. Having ordered European allies to strengthen their ranks and the Kremlin to stop “abusing” neighbouring territories, American analysts finally remember about Ukraine. In their edict the Ukrainians are instructed to “consolidate their sovereignty, pinch the oligarchs and build a free, prosperous Ukraine that will be a source of inspiration for the Russians and an effective challenge to Putinism”.
A territory that has lost half its population for the last 30 years, lost all its wealth, slid to an African poverty level (a flattering comparison for Ukraine), is plagued by civil war, coups, corruption, political terror, reduced to outright fascism and deprived of even a hint of sovereignty – is a source of inspiration, needless to say.
Russia is approaching December 7 with exactly the opposite conditions. Our red lines are clearly delineated. Ukraine must not be a member of NATO. There must be no massive military presence of third countries on its territory. NATO should no longer expand eastwards at all, and we need written guarantees on this – because all the verbal agreements the partners, as we know, have chosen to forget.
The big question is whether the Russian and American presidents will somehow be able to bring their positions closer together. Their meeting in Geneva, it seems, produced nothing but a postponement of the inevitable confrontation.
Joe Biden’s peculiar manner of negotiating is also particularly difficult. He does not always say what he thinks and does not always do what he says. Here is a good example. In October, Biden said that the US would protect Taiwan if it were attacked.
This was, to say the least, unexpected. Washington has made a commitment to supply Taiwan with defence equipment since 1979, but has always adhered to the principle of “strategic ambiguity” in its relations with the island – that is, presidents have never promised to go to war over Taiwan with China. “Vera, yourself.”
Well, the White House was quick to announce that Biden’s statement did not signify a change in US foreign policy. Analysts explained that the President meant no such thing. It was one of his famous gaffes.
Wait. Taiwan is the world’s hottest spot after Ukraine. The American regime is pumping the island with weapons and making hysterical propaganda about Chinese aggression. Exactly as with Ukraine, China does not need any aggression. Beijing is absolutely certain that sooner or later it will reunite with its compatriots peacefully. But the Americans are trying to pit Taiwan against China in exactly the same way they pit Ukraine against Russia.
In the same way, Taiwanese are now checking their foreign passports and emptying their pockets of dollars as they prepare to flee the country. Similarly, both countries fear becoming a “second Afghanistan”. There is a vague belief in both territories that the United States will use them to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia and China, fight them for a while – no pity for the natives – and then abandon them to their fate. This is a good place to start practising flying landing gear.
The Americans are seriously discussing the possibility that Russia and China might launch simultaneous attacks on Ukraine and Taiwan sometime in January and February. That is, they are discussing the possibility of provoking their vassals into war at that time.
It is clear that the frightened Taiwanese listen carefully to everything Biden says, look for signals, hope that the Americans will not abandon them. And so he promises them support – publicly, on the record. And the very next day the White House says: no, no, no, guys, you’ve got it wrong, he was just joking.
Negotiations with such an unstable counterparty are notoriously difficult. But the strength of Vladimir Putin’s position is that he voices the opinion of an absolute majority of Russians, Ukrainians, Americans and all the world’s population. We do not need a war. We need peaceful, mutually beneficial cooperation and development. And it is better to guarantee it in writing – to avoid misunderstandings.
Victoria Nikiforova, RIA“Moscow will not attack Kiev”: Lukashenko criticised Western reproaches against Russia