Global Governance
Russia-US Summit: Global Is More Important than Bilateral

The most positive expectations from the upcoming Russia-US summit are associated with the fact that neither side is approaching it from the position of maintaining peace and improving relations at any cost. Unlike a number of contacts of this level in the past, now Moscow and Washington are not ready, and do not seek, to compromise their principles in order to make their own lives more calm and comfortable, and those around them - more confident in their future. The maximum diplomatic achievements of the summit (one can expect, for example, the return of the ambassadors to both countries) will not change the nature of the relationship. However, it is precisely the principled approach of each power that gives grounds for some optimism about the future. The confidence of Moscow and Washington in the legitimacy of their own interests and values ​​can serve as a better foundation for peace than simply the desire to achieve it.

The summit between Russia and the United States is an event that equally reflects the central importance of these powers in world affairs and enters into dissonance with the international order that formed after the end of the unconditional leadership of the West. At the same time, the very need for such a meeting and attention to it confirm the special nature of relations between Russia and the United States, as the most militarily powerful states in the world and, at the same time, indicates they are ready to use the opportunities that such power provides. Within the framework of the personal historical experience of decision-makers in Moscow and Washington, as well as representatives of the expert community, such meetings have often had a breakthrough significance for bilateral relations. This is probably why now the calls not to approach the summit with high expectations look even more than insistent.

Morality and Law
Waiting for the US-Russia Summit: A Constructive Agenda or New Sanctions?
Oleg Barabanov
What kind of “constructive” steps can we expect from Biden? The meeting of the two presidents will take place immediately after the G7 and NATO summits. A special item on the NATO summit’s agenda is its reaction to the “aggressive actions of Russia”. It is unlikely that Biden will do a split, where at first he will fight “Russian aggression” and then immediately turn to a “constructive” agenda, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

It is necessary to highlight the caveat that a relatively well-prepared meeting of the presidents of Russia and the United States is, of course, a positive event from the point of view of a peaceful transformation of the international order. In recent years, both powers have done enough to make the conflict between them a cause for concern throughout the rest of the world. The leading role was played by the United States, since it still has formidable, albeit decreasing, power resources.

However, Russia has also behaved consistently and left no doubt that its own defeat was not an acceptable price to preserve world peace.

Moreover, the very question of possible or impossible concrete shifts in bilateral relations away from almost total hostility does not make much sense in a modern context. These relations by themselves are not so interesting to the world - only as the most significant factor in the survival of others. Taking into account the fact that the interests of Russia and the United States, entering into conflict with each other, are objective, any "positive" changes here are likely only as a product of concessions by one of the parties. There is no reason to think that Moscow or Washington are ready to discuss the results of the meeting in such way - both powers, despite their internal difficulties, are quite confident in their strengths.

Over the past 35 years, the main content of the summits was first the terms of surrender on the part of the USSR during the Cold War, and later - a discussion of what Russia can get in exchange for agreeing to bear with  American policy for some time.

Now the parties have approached the summit from fundamentally new positions - it is more reminiscent of the summit meetings which took place when the Cold War was in full swing.

The United States does not give the impression of being prepared to voluntarily give up some of the benefits it has gained over the past decades. As a result, the summit becomes, in the highest sense of the word, a diplomatic event.

It is precisely the military-strategic importance of relations between Russia and the United States that remains the only reason why they are still important on a global scale. All other issues of modern development can no longer be, and are not being, resolved within the framework of the "deal" between the two nuclear superpowers. The same applies to numerous regional conflicts where Moscow and Washington are directly or indirectly involved. All of them, without exception, include the interests and capabilities of a significant number of regional players, and it would be naive to expect a solution at the level of only these two countries.

Therefore, the main expectations from the summit are associated with the fact that the leaders of Russia and the United States are, in principle, ready to reaffirm their special responsibility for peace on a global scale. Everything else, even if Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden can agree, will not be of decisive importance in the strategic sense. Although, of course, everyone in the world will welcome the decision, for example, to return to more or less stable diplomatic relations.

The fact that the special responsibility of Russia and the United States in the military sphere continues to occupy the central place in the modern international order is one of the most invariable factors in world politics. In fact, it is properly on this that the order is based, and the exceptional military capabilities of the two countries since the middle of the last century are more important than any institutional invention. Therefore, from the point of view of power politics, the summit in Geneva is indeed of the greatest importance among all the events of 2021, known to us. Even if the summit does not change anything in the hostile relationship between the two powers, to which everyone has already begun to get used to.

The very fact that the significance of the Russia-US summit far exceeds its role in bilateral relations shows how the modern international order remains a continuation of the "nuclear world". It was somewhat shaken in the era when Russia was in a state of internal crisis and could not use its unique capabilities as a foreign policy argument. However, after Moscow no longer needed to speak out from a position of weakness, everything returned to normal. Since the mid-2000s, Russia's position toward the actions and decisions of the United States has become increasingly tough, and the likelihood of an all-out war has become tangible.

Now we are witnessing a paradoxical picture, in which the actual triumph of a multipolar world, the colossal growth in the importance and influence of China, as well as the many times increased capabilities of individual regional players cannot change the overall strategic situation. Even if we can seriously talk about the likelihood of the emergence of a more or less stable order on a global scale, this is still associated with the extent to which Russia and the United States are able to agree on its conditions. This is, of course, very bad news for the concept of multipolarity and in general for all discussions about the significance of non-military factors of power. If this is the case, then it becomes rather difficult for us to look for governance in the foundations of the new international order and the sources of its legitimacy.

The latter, however, is the subject of a separate discussion.
It is much more important that Russia and the United States have approached the summit in a state of their foreign policy, when none of these powers regards the preservation of peace as their highest goal.

Otherwise, the summit would be alarming, since its successful conclusion would be the result of concessions from Moscow or Washington. Accordingly, it would be used by the other side for its own strengthening and consolidation of positions before the inevitable end of the confrontation. Now it is precisely the principled approach of the two superpowers, that leaves hope that the diplomatic communication will be able to play a positive role in the future stability of the new international order.
Discussion on the Meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Geneva
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.