Are Russian-American ties finally thawing?
The international community seemed to be ready for a long period of confrontation between Russia and the United States
The international community seemed to be ready for a long period of confrontation between Russia and the United States. The crisis in Ukraine that brought the bilateral ties to the lowest ebb since the Collapse of the Soviet Union, was expected to become a reason for a long term confrontation between the two countries, so influencing the whole global political landscape and predetermining the logic of the interconnections between the global players.
But the recent meeting between John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, and, what is more significant, with Vladimir Putin, shows that there is some hope and reason for optimism.
First of all why should we talk in this context about reasons for optimism? It's quiet clear that confrontation, especially a long one, between the two major powers is not in the national interests of either of the two players, nor is it in the interests of the international community as a whole. Moreover the confrontational core of the international system, complicates ties between the countries, giving the prerequisites for the split of the international community at confronted blocks. For the international community - tackling enormous challenges - any deep divide will endanger its future and the future of the separate countries forming it. So any attempts to break the ice between the players should be actively welcomed.
It's quiet clear that confrontation, especially a long one, between the two major powers is not in the national interests of either of the two players, nor is it in the interests of the international community as a wholeMaria Dubovikova
The reason there is hope for the better, comes not only from the very fact that these talks took place, but from the warming and charming atmosphere in which they were held. The arrival of Lavrov at the meeting in an old rare Soviet car (a white “Pobeda” [Victiry]), the exchange of unusual presents - such elements never appear when there is ongoing strong hostilities that are not supposed to be overlooked. This kind of political joking, and relatively informal atmosphere is a good sign saying that all sides consider the current historical moment to be important for some positive change. Through this meeting Russia has shown that it's ready for talks and cooperation and invites the U.S. to follow its example of its friendly gesture.
The common felt threat
The sanction policy and the external pressure didn’t make Russia change its course, or even soften it. The Ukrainian gamble appeared to be far less successful than it was expected by the West. And instead of prosperous democracy on its doorstep, the West got the complex and dubious black hole to money of its tax-payers, governed by the dubious political figures, who dramatically suffer from the wishful thinking and lack of understanding of their real place in history and in geopolitics.
At the same time the huge amount of global challenges the international community currently face, demand unity, common will and common actions. The geopolitical interests divide Russia and the U.S., but what unites them - is common challenges. The main problem that pushes Russia and the U.S. towards each other is the ISIS threat. Then the Syrian crisis, and the Iranian puzzle were all topics discussed at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. And even the Ukrainian crisis itself has shown signs of transformation from the approach of divide and argue, to the talk and direct dialogue.
Russia having direct and strong contact with the Syrian government, and having levers of influence on it, is a needed partner for the search of the conflict resolution and for taking coordinated maneuvers and steps not to let Syria fall in a complete collapse and prevent the triumph of chaos and of ISIS. Iran is a matter of coordinated work. The U.S. is searching for stabilization of its ties with the Shiite regime. The reason for these maneuvers can be understood differently, taking into account the complexity of the interests the U.S. has in the region.
But one of the possible reasons of this change of policy is that the U.S. could use Iran to convince Saudi Arabia that it has made moves towards strengthening and building its independent foreign policy. The U.S. needs Iran in terms of energy resources and the issue of their prices. And to take this globally, the time has come for the international community to rethink its policy towards Iran. The Iranian nuclear problem should be solved now to deal with at least one of the region’s numerous problems. And the U.S., positioning itself as a hegemon, needs to lead this process and Russia is an indispensable partner in the talks with Iran, primarily on the nuclear issue and then in building bridges between Iran and the rest of the world.
Even though there was no remarkable breakthrough - the sides have just discussed the agenda, composed of the common matters of deep concerns - it's still a significant step forward. Having reached the bottom of bilateral relations the countries seem to be ready to move on. And the fact that Kerry has urged Poroshenko to think twice about reigniting the Ukrainian conflict after his declaration to take back the Donetsk airport and start an assault on the city, means that the U.S. is stepping aside slightly from a policy of unquestioned support of the Ukrainian government and need no further confrontation with Russia over the Ukrainian matter. This gives enough hope for the immediate future. But taking into account that Obama’s term ends soon, the policy will be changed, whoever wins the U.S. elections. So current possible positive changes have the possibility to be nothing but a slight temporary thaw.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme