Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Biden administration will have its hands full with Russia

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Yet the Trump era was not a clean sweep for the Kremlin. After the 2016 election, Russian officials “were hoping for a rapprochement – a big step forward in bilateral relations – and at the top of that list, they hoped President Trump would lift the sanctions,” McFaul said. This does not happen. The United States ultimately did not lift the sanctions against Russia; in fact he imposed more (although some dispute their relative effectiveness). The United States has not recognized Putin’s annexation of Crimea, nor has it dismantled NATO.

“I fully expect that President-elect Biden will not seek friendship with Vladimir Putin,” McFaul said, recalling that when Biden and Putin last met in 2011, there was no had such openings.

Many political challenges will guide Washington’s engagement with Russia during the Biden-Harris administration. Democracy and human rights are key parts of that portfolio – and there, according to McFaul, the president-elect’s team will take a tougher stance with Moscow. “There is no doubt in my mind that President-elect Biden will speak much more openly about issues of democracy and human rights, including within Russia,” McFaul said. “And that will create friction with the Kremlin, no doubt. They enjoyed their honeymoon over these issues.

The Biden-Harris administration will also have to mend the U.S. relationship with NATO, which Trump has spent his time undermining. “There is nothing worse than misperceptions or mistaken calculations of our credibility with our NATO allies,” he said. “And I actually think that strengthening NATO and strengthening that engagement will reduce the likelihood of any kind of unintentional conflict with Russia.”

Trump’s ambassador to NATO recently promised a “seamless” transition to the Biden administration, just weeks after Biden began announcing his planned appointments to key national security positions. These included Jake sullivan to advise on national security, Linda Thomas-Greenfield for the Ambassador to the United Nations, and Antony blink for the Secretary of State. All of them are experienced men in foreign policy. Among other roles, Sullivan was National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden, Thomas-Greenfield was a former Deputy Secretary of State and a 35-year foreign service veteran, and Blinken was a Deputy Under Secretary of State.

For Russia, these announcements foreshadow an American emphasis on international engagement, McFaul says. Biden and Blinken both have long histories with Ukraine and other neighboring countries, which means Washington is likely to step up its engagement with Russia and neighboring countries – although McFaul is clear that such diplomacy will not. not just a confrontation.

“I think there will be, and there should be, some areas of cooperation, and at the top of that list, I would put arms control,” McFaul argues. “I fully hope that President Biden will seek to extend the new START treaty”, for which talks have been In progress. “He was the go-to for its ratification, after all, in 2010. To me, it’s a no-brainer, and it’s good for America. Strategic talks with Moscow are stalled under the Trump administration, but they are an essential mode of engagement, McFaul says.

All the policies of the past four years will not be abandoned; While there are certainly many points of divergence, the new Biden-Harris administration may very well stay the course of its predecessors in areas like NATO spending. As Trump claims the credit, McFaul notes that it was Barack Obama and Angela Merkel who first pushed NATO members to contribute more.

Economic sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses will also remain in place, McFaul predicts. This listing currently includes Russian state-owned enterprises, civil servants and oligarchs. “Unless Putin changes his behavior, I don’t see the conditions under which a Biden administration will change that, and I think that’s good,” he says.


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