What's Happening 17:04 17 Jun 2021

Biden vs Putin.‌ ‌Who‌ gained the upper hand, and what should Ukraine be ready for? ‌ ‌

Фото Reuters

The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden in Geneva promised to be one of the main political events of 2021. Ukraine, which didn't receive the MAP for joining NATO again, followed the negotiations with particular agitation: how will everything go, who will be the winner of the meeting, and what should we prepare for?

What happened in the end: find out in the new Rubryka article.

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Biden and Putin wanted to take a closer look at each other

This meeting's paradox was that it seems that neither party expected to get any serious results from it. Biden honestly admitted that he was going to establish "personal relations" with Putin since, without them, there would be no dialogue between the countries.

The statements of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who recently visited Kyiv for negotiations with the Ukrainian leadership, weren't particularly encouraging. He saw the meeting as an opportunity to signal Russia and see how the Kremlin react to the negotiations. The Russian party was also not beaming with optimism: Putin declared he wanted to restore dialogue and personal contacts between Moscow and Washington, and create mechanisms for resolving problems in several areas.

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One got the impression that both Putin and Biden were interested in looking at each other. In the same way, the Russian party agreed to a meeting in December 2019 in Paris; only then Volodymyr Zelenskyi and the leaders of the leading European Union countries were sitting at the same table with the President of the Russian Federation.

But that meeting didn't have a logical continuation. Soon the relations between Ukraine and Russia "froze" again, and no shifts have been observed to this day.

"There was a move back in the Cold War. Biden made it clear that the US administration doesn't consider relations with Russia in this direction. I had been considering this option until that time, especially when the ambassadors were recalled. Biden wants to relieve the Russian direction from excessive confrontation and clarify bilateral relations. Now they'll stop exchanging mutual accusations, create working groups on strategic threats: nuclear threats, the Arctic and others," Serhii Tolstov, director of the Institute for Political Analysis and International Studies, said in a commentary to Rubryka.


Yermak may not be welcome in the USA 

Any warming in relations between Russia and the United States isn't in the interests of Kyiv. Ukraine needs an aggressive ally overseas who'll help defend our positions in the conflict in Donbas, the annexation of Crimea, and other pain points. In addition, we need US support in reforming the army and building up the defense capability of the national military-industrial complex.

In July, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi is to travel to Washington for a meeting with Biden, where he will most likely seek guarantees of continued support of the White House. The previous trip of the Ukrainian president to the United States was unsuccessful: the then-President Donald Trump allowed their telephone conversation to be published after Zelenskyi's inauguration. The scandal that erupted against this setting greatly spoiled the impression of the trip. How will it be this time?

According to Mirror Weekly, the White House may not be happy with the Head of the Office of the President, Andrii Yermak. According to media reports, he was recently refused to be connected with Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan, offering to connect him with a lower-ranking official, Director for Europe on the US National Security Council Amanda Sloat. However, Yermak allegedly refused to talk, ordering to transfer the call to one of his deputies, the American party didn't like this passage. And given the cool attitude towards Yermak due to meetings with Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, he risks becoming persona non grata in the Capitol. It also hits Zelenskyi, who'll need a reliable channel of communication with Washington before the meeting.

"The United States has long been accustomed to dialogue not with individuals, but with positions. This principle is strictly observed there, therefore such a situation may well take place. For us, the position of Head of the President's Office immediately implies the fact that he's the right-hand man of the head of state. In Washington, however, they don't understand why the actual head of the chancellery is trying to get into international politics," Andrii Vyhovskyi, an expert on international politics, said in an interview with the publication.

"Biden's audience will be small. They have nothing to talk about with Zelenskyi. At the level of national security advisers, and secretaries, they can explain some things to Yermak and Kuleba in a conceptual way. If such a conversation does take place," Serhii Tolstov says.

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What awaits Ukraine and is there a chance for NATO?

On the one hand, the absence of an invitation to the NATO summit ahead of the Biden-Putin meeting hit Ukraine's reputation hard. In addition, predictably, Kyiv didn't receive the Membership Action Plan, which was promised at the 2008 summit.

However, on the other hand, NATO has confirmed that it's not going to abandon the promise made 13 years ago, the most important signal for a long time. And Biden promised that the conflict in eastern Ukraine wouldn't become an obstacle to this.

"Kyiv now needs to do something. On the one hand, to resolve the issue of Donbas. Under Biden, the US Administration is not interested in it. Most likely so. But since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is not limited to Donbas alone, these issues must somehow be resolved. If there's such an opportunity to talk, then Kyiv's policy will change. If the conversation doesn't take place, then, in Washington, Zelenskyi will be told that everything remains about the same," the expert Tolstov predicts.

The meeting between Putin and Biden in Geneva will definitely not be included in the category of historical ones. Most likely, Zelenskyi's trip will be much more important and substantial for Ukraine. Moreover, it's also important that following the talks, neither the Russian nor the American president exchanged invitations. And some press conferences hint that the relationship hasn't become particularly warm. Probably not. This means that Ukraine needs to continue to bend its line, seek US participation in the negotiation process on Donbas, not forget to say that Crimea is Ukraine, and go towards joining NATO.


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