So Much for Biden Administration Seeking Stable, Predictable Relations With Russia

Under prevailing conditions of dysfunctional U.S. capitalism, relations with Russia are designed to, necessarily, be bad.

One of the mantras espoused by the Biden administration since he was inaugurated as 46th U.S. president nearly 10 months ago has been the stated desire to seek “stable and predictable relations with Russia”.

That formulation has been articulated by President Joe Biden and his top aides. It sounds high-handed, albeit with a begrudging tone of willingness to cooperate.

Why not “normal and cordial relations”? That seems too much to ask from an American political establishment that is encumbered with a Cold War ideology of “great power competition” and of viewing international relations through a simplistic Manichean prism of “good versus evil”. And, of course, one where the good guys are always, preposterously, yes, you guessed it, the Americans.

On a slightly positive note, there was President Biden’s early move to extend the New START accord limiting stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons held by both the U.S. and Russia. The previous Trump administration menacingly intimated that the crucial treaty would be scrapped along with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) accord and the Open Skies Treaty.

Also, five months into his White House tenure, Biden held a face-to-face summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. The meeting appeared to be cordial and productive, despite earlier denigratory and baseless remarks by Biden alleging Putin to be a “killer”. Out of the Geneva summit, there were mutual exchanges on the topics of strengthening arms control, cybersecurity and other areas of concern.

However, there seems to be little substance achieved beyond rhetoric. On a visit to Moscow earlier this month, the senior Biden administration diplomat Victoria Nuland reiterated the mantra about seeking “stable and predictable relations”. But from her meetings, it was discerned that the U.S. side was not willing to listen or understand Russia’s point of view on a range of vital issues. Those issues include the build-up of military forces by the U.S.-led NATO alliance on Russia’s borders as well as the destabilizing military support from Washington to the anti-Russian regime in Ukraine.

As with the other mantra favored by the Biden administration, namely “rules-based global order”, it sounds like Washington simply wants to impose its unilateral view of what suits its own interests. Rules-based global order sounds legalistic and reasonable, but what it really means is U.S.-dictated terms.

So too it is with “stable and predictable relations” regarding Moscow. There is little mutualism or discussion intended. It is all about dictating what is stable and predictable for Washington.

The proof of that tacit American logic is the report this week that the United States repudiated a proposal from Russia for the lifting of all diplomatic restrictions between the two nations. Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov said the proposal to normalize relations was rejected by both the State Department and the White House. In other words, the stance would appear to be endemic in the U.S. political establishment and cannot be attributed to some anomalous decision.

During the Trump administration, Russia’s consular offices in the United States were closed down by the U.S. authorities and several rounds of expulsions of Russian diplomats were carried out. The measures were reasonably countered by reciprocal Russian moves curbing American consular services on its territory.

The deterioration in diplomatic relations has been largely driven by unsubstantiated U.S. accusations of Russian interference in its internal affairs. The so-called “Russiagate” scandal alleging Russian interference in U.S. elections is a giant hoax in desperate need of facts. The indictment by the FBI this week of a source behind much of the claims is yet more proof of how crassly false the whole saga is. The real scandal here is the internal corruption of politics and law and order in the United States which has nothing to do with alleged Russian malign conduct.

Nevertheless, rather than undoing the damage to diplomatic relations, Washington persists in maintaining abnormally minimalist channels.

Moscow’s reasonable offer of unconditionally removing all restrictions was rebuffed. That inevitably means that the normal work of diplomats and inter-state communications are hampered. How does that reality square with the Biden administration’s ostensible commitment to cooperating on vitally important global security matters, such as strategic arms control? At a time of increasing, dangerous tensions between the two nuclear superpowers due to NATO moves in the Ukraine, Georgia and the Balkans, surely the most plausible policy would be to try and expand communications, not minimize them.

As with much else about this Biden White House, there is a lot of talk and very little walking. Biden talks about not wanting a Cold War or confrontation with Russia and China, yet his administration is riven with contradictory signals.

When this U.S. president talks about “stable and predictable” relations with Russia, the translation appears to be wanting to have stagnant and predictably bad relations.

Such a negative, non-productive position is contemptible, especially from a nation that claims, risibly, to be the world’s most powerful and most enlightened.

Of course, the explanation for this conundrum is rather mundane. American corporate capitalism cannot abide peaceful international relations because such a benign state of global affairs is anathema to its hyper-militaristic economy. Under prevailing conditions of dysfunctional U.S. capitalism, relations with Russia (and China, Iran, and so on) are designed to, necessarily, be bad. Hence, the perverse position in Washington this week of destroying any diplomatic opening with Russia.