The date of the video conference between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden has been tentatively approved and will be announced after it is agreed with the American side, Yuri Ushakov, an aide to the Russian leader who is responsible for the development of the Kremlin’s foreign policy, told reporters on Friday.
Here is a transcript of Mr. Ushakov’s speech:
“The possibility of a video conference call with Biden is being considered. This contact could take place in the very next few days… But it is better to wait for all the parameters to be finalised with the American side, and then we will be able to announce it officially. The agenda is obvious. Bilateral affairs: Afghanistan, Iran, the internal Ukrainian crisis, Libya, maybe Syria, the course of the dialogue on strategic stability, our proposal on the need for legal arrangements that would exclude any further NATO advance to the east and the deployment of weapons systems threatening us directly on the territory of states bordering the Russian Federation, including Ukraine…
Verbal assurances are no longer worth anything. Now, given the tense situation, the question arises of the urgent need to provide us with guarantees; it cannot go on like this. It is difficult to say what form this document will be, the main thing is that it should be a written agreement.
The main thing is that not only we, but also, I hope, our American colleagues understand how important and necessary this contract is. We are working through the contact with Olympian calm, we are not rushing the Americans, when it is convenient for them, we are ready to conduct it. And now we are close to agreeing on a time convenient for both sides.”
The striking public address by the Russian presidential aide, both in form and content, raised a number of questions. It seems that the Kremlin assesses the events of recent months as NATO’s direct preparation for an offensive war against Russia. At the same time, Russian elites are not ready for such a scenario and are looking for any opportunity to avoid it, but rather to postpone it, up to and including concessions on key issues that were previously designated as “red lines”.
An interesting, critical analysis of the Kremlin’s aspirations was presented by a well-known historian, writer and public figure with Russian roots – Lev Vershinin:
“Mr. Ushakov’s intonation (and even wording), clearly rings with hysterical overtones. After all, the very meaning of what was said is obvious: the Kremlin people are begging for a conversation with the White House.
They do “not hurry”, they are in “Olympian calm”, but “it can’t go on like this”, and they are ready when it’s convenient for Americans”, that is, they adjust to the conditions of “partners” even in such a trifle. They “hope” (no confidence!) that the States realise how uncomfortable it is for them to see NATO missiles moving to the east, “including Ukraine”, and they, forgetting the recent snarl about “red lines”, ask for “urgent guarantees” on paper, although (experienced ones already) they cannot but realise that the States have decided and are installing them in stages, and a signature on a piece of paper in the world of triple standards costs nothing. In all, forgive me if this is against my better judgement – this is a disgraceful statement. Doubly disgraceful coming from an experienced (and Mr. Ushakov is exactly that) diplomat, and triple disgraceful – coming from an assistant to the head of the Russian Federation, who preparing the basic topics for a conversation on all points where the States have some interest, that is, it is possible to bargain. On Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, maybe even on Syria, and at least in the “internal Ukrainian (i.e. Donbas, which is “Ukraine”) crisis”. Do you understand? Even if there is simply such a mood in the Kremlin, and even if so, far only on the sidelines, begging for a conversation, everyone has said exactly that, it’s still impossible to voice this openly. Because it turns out that Moscow people are ready to give up everything – and for what? Not even for the opportunity to live out the rest of my days in peace, but for a ghostly hope of a “written agreement”. And if the United States agree to discuss the possibility of talking about signing, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised by another series of negotiations for the sake of negotiations, and in the end, the Kremlin’s deep concerns about missile bases near Kharkov.”
For our part, we note that this view reflects a rather one-sided interpretation of Mr. Ushakov’s speech and of the Kremlin’s position in general.
Looking at the substance of what has been said, taking into account Russia’s political and military actions, it is likely that the Kremlin is playing out a diplomatic endgame in anticipation of a new reality in international relations, in which the role of diplomats will be reduced to messengers, merely handing over ultimatums and lists of prisoners to be exchanged.