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Insights into Editorial: Cold peace: On first Biden-Putin summit in Geneva

 

 

Context:

The Geneva summit between U.S. President and his Russian counterpart has set a pragmatic tone for engagement between the two competing powers.

Previously, the U.S. has accused Russia of interfering in its elections and launching cyberattacks and criticised its stifling of internal dissent, while Moscow has slammed America’s “interventionist” foreign policy.

Despite these differences, the leaders held talks on all critical issues, bringing diplomacy to the centre-stage.

After the summit, they have struck cautious optimism that is rooted in self-interest. Mr. Biden sought a more predictable, rational engagement, while Mr. Putin said relations were “primarily pragmatic”.

They have decided to return their Ambassadors to the Embassies and announced “a strategic stability dialogue” to discuss terms of arms control measures.

Mr. Biden had, in the past, called Mr. Putin “a killer”. Relations have hit the lowest point in recent years since the end of the Cold War.

 

47th G7 Summit:

  1. It is aimed squarely at competing with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which has been widely criticised for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt but has included even G7 member Italy since launching in 2013.
  2. It will collectively catalyse hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries (in Asia and Africa) and offer a values-driven, high-standard and transparent partnership with G7.
  3. The G7 also pledged over 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses for poorer nations with half of that coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain.
  4. 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022. The doses would come both directly and through the international COVAX program.
  5. The G7 signed the Carbis Bay Declaration. It is aimed at preventing future pandemics.

The two sides are also sending their ambassadors back to Washington and Moscow to facilitate a productive dialogue.

At the end of their four-hour-long talks, Biden and Putin suggested that the two sides are ready to explore common ground on the basis of self-interest.

 

About G7 countries:

  1. G-7 is a bloc of industrialized democracies i.e. France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and Canada.
  2. The world’s biggest population and second-biggest economy, China has relatively low levels of wealth per head of population.
  3. Thus, it is not considered as an advanced economy like other G7 members. Hence China is not a member of G7.
  4. It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975.
  5. The bloc meets annually to discuss issues of common interest like global economic governance, international security and energy policy.
  6. The G7 was known as the ‘G8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997.
  7. The Group returned to being called G7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

 

G7 countries formation:

  1. When Russia ended its post-Soviet strategic retreat and adopted a more assertive foreign policy under Mr. Putin, partly in response to NATO expansion into eastern Europe, the West saw it as a threat to its primacy.
  2. The 2008 Georgia war practically ended the romance between “democratic Russia” and the West.
  3. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 renewed tensions. Russia was thrown out of the G8, and western sanctions followed. But such steps did not deter Mr. Putin.
  4. 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.
  5. Biden and Mr. Putin cannot resolve these geopolitical and bilateral issues in one summit. But they can certainly take measures to prevent relations from worsening.
  6. For the U.S., the cyberattacks are a red line. Russia, which had amassed troops on the Ukraine border earlier this year, sees NATO’s expansion into its border region as a threat.

The theme for this year G7 summit is ‘Build Back Better’ and the UK has outlined four priority areas for its presidency:

  1. Leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening resilience against future pandemics;
  2. Promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade;
  3. Tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity; and
  4. Championing shared values and open societies.

 

But, Structural issues in the U.S.-Russia ties:

  1. While the summit has opened up some political space for Biden and Putin, there are innumerable and intractable disputes, including on human rights, Ukraine, and European security.
  2. As they begin to cooperate on some issues, the US and Russian capacity to limit and manage the difficult areas will continue to expand.
  3. The U.S. should be less pessimistic about Russia’s foreign policy goals. Whether the Americans like it or not, Russia, despite its weakened economic status, remains a great power.
  4. Putin should also realise that if his goal is to restore Russia’s lost glory in global politics, he should be ready to cooperate with the West.
  5. Permanent hostility with other powers cannot be of much help to Russia.

However, now in G7 Summit, USA and Russia did well to create a framework for sustained engagement on a range of issues, including arms control and cyber security, while communicating their respective red lines.

 

Conclusion:

There was no major breakthrough, which was not expected anyway, the two countries could at least demonstrate a willingness to strengthen engagement and reduce tensions.

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.

A more predictable relationship between USA and Russia is certainly welcome in Delhi, which has often got caught in the crossfire.

India would also take a keen interest in the incipient nuclear and cyber dialogue between the US and Russia and in the summit’s implications for the triangular dynamic between Washington, Moscow and Beijing.