Analysis: What would be Biden’s areas of dealing with Russia?

Analysis: What would be Biden’s areas of dealing with Russia?

After January 20, 2021, when Biden officially took over power, the new US administration’s officials directed considerable levels of criticism against the Kremlin. In the most serious action, on March 2, 2021, the White House imposed sanctions on seven senior and mid-ranking Russian officials for their alleged role in poisoning President Vladimir Putin’s prominent critic Alexei Navalny.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): After Donald Trump's nightmarish four years for the US foreign policy, his successor Joe Biden promised a review of the relations with a range of countries. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation is one of the most important actors political observers follow Biden foreign policy’s dealing with.

After January 20, 2021, when Biden officially took over power, the new US administration’s officials directed considerable levels of criticism against the Kremlin. In the most serious action, on March 2, 2021, the White House imposed sanctions on seven senior and mid-ranking Russian officials for their alleged role in poisoning President Vladimir Putin’s prominent critic Alexei Navalny.

Now the question is that what would be Biden’s policy towards the US’s most important rival in the Cold War era and also in the recent years.

Restoring multilateralism to the US foreign policy

In the years that followed 2016, Russia implicitly supported Donald Trump's unilateralist and nationalist policies and strategies. Trump's unilateralism and disregard for traditional allies in Europe and the rest of the world carried a vital opportunity for Russia to exploit the widening inter-NATO gaps, reduce tensions with Brussels, play a responsible role in important international cases, and enhance its global prestige. But the return of the US government under Joe Biden to the multilateralism approach did not appeal to the Russians. Biden's efforts to revive Western alliance and multilateralism in international politics have never been favored by Moscow, and in the current context, it seems that this approach will reduce or even kill the existing potentials for increasing Moscow's maneuvering range.

Preventing Moscow-Beijing coalition

Looking at the changes made in the US Department of State and also the National Security Council after Biden assumed the power makes it clear that the new administration focuses on China and not Russia as a top priority. Over the past month, Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan introduced some changes to the personnel of the National Security Council, cutting the staff of West Asia and expanding those working on the American policies in a vast region from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. This arrangement is read by political analysts as a concentration of the foreign policy on containing Beijing.

Senior members of the Biden administration have explicitly named China as a top US foreign, defense, and security policy priority. In a message to the armed forces on Friday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin described China as his department’s top challenge.

“Prioritize China as the pacing challenge. The Department will prioritize China as our number one pacing challenge and develop the right operational concepts, capabilities, and plans to bolster deterrence and maintain our competitive advantage. We will ensure that our approach toward China is coordinated and synchronized across the enterprise to advance our priorities, integrated into domestic and foreign policy in a whole-of-government strategy, strengthened by our alliances and partnerships, and supported on a bipartisan basis in Congress,” his statement read.

Actually, despite the criticism and sanctions against Moscow, Biden has delayed a majority of the Russian-related cases, except for the arms control discussions, as he focuses on China.

The White House hopes that its policies toward Russia will strengthen and empower pro-Westerners in Russia. In this regard, it is important to note that by pursuing a “pivot to East” policy, Washington seeks to prevent the formation of a China-Russia military-economic bloc. Any further closeness between Beijing and Moscow in various dimensions will push ahead weakening of the US hegemony. So, the White House in the new period seems to seek exploitation of the Russian-Chinese gaps and even widening them.

Russia rises to expand presence in West Asia and North Africa in rivalry to the US

Another notable area in Biden's policy towards Russia has to do with Moscow's approach to increasing its influence in various parts of the world. This has been significantly addressed in the publication of the “interim” document of the Biden government's national security strategy.

“Russia remains determined to enhance its global influence and play a disruptive role on the world stage,” an item of the document read.

In the meantime, West Asia and North Africa are specifically the most important areas for the Russians to increase their global influence. Successive US failures in important regional cases such as the Syrian war and the decline of the US role and weight in the Palestinian cause, declining influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, new West Asia security architecture, and the shrinking regional allies' trust in Washington support have been encouraging the Russians to expand their role.

In addition, the increase in Russia's presence in South America as the US backyard, mainly in countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, Cuba, and Bolivia, will cause Biden's stricter stance on the Russian influence compared to his predecessor Donald Trump. With regard to the Russian influence in North America, with Cuba being the main influence spot, it is possible that Biden, copying Barack Obama to whom he was a vice president, will pursue a policy of de-escalation with Havana to limit the Russian foothold.

Nuclear arms control and Moscow-Washington rivalry

Just unlike in the diplomatic field in which the US ostensibly removes Russia from its foreign policy priority list to focus on Beijing, in the arms control and military competition, Moscow remains a priority to the Americans. When it comes to the arms area, two issues need to be taken into consideration: Arms control and military competition.

In terms of ​​nuclear weapons control, the Biden administration has taken a far more wise and balanced approach than the Trump administration. Earlier, Biden had repeatedly criticized the Trump administration's irresponsible approach to arms control, saying he would try to, besides saving the New START agreement, commit, though unofficially, to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), of which Trump pulled out in the summer of 2019.

On February 27, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy Leonor Tomeo said that the US was ready to continue negotiations on New Start treaty. The same stance had been taken by Dmitry Andreyevich Polyanski, Russia’s permanent envoy to the UN. All these show that Biden seeks cooperation and not confrontation in the nuclear arms area.

Russia-NATO confrontation

The NATO-Russia confrontation has always been an essential challenge for the US presidents in relations with Moscow. Since its foundation in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had the central mission of controlling the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation. Under Trump, the US relations with other NATO members went chilly. Reviewing Washington’s participation and budget share in the Western military organization, Trump openly asked the members to increase their share paid for the expenses of the bloc. This became a big source of tensions among NATO members, triggering discontentment with Trump’s unilateral policy. Trump’s passive approach towards Russia and positive view of Putin triggered concerns among NATO members.

Just unlike Trump, Biden seeks de-escalation of inter-NATO tensions. A majority of political analysts predict resumption of the NATO’s aggressive creeping towards the Russian borders in the new period, rekindling Kremlin's disappointment with NATO policies. NATO expansion of activism next to the Russian borders will negatively affect Putin-Biden ties.



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