Letter From the Editors

Joe Biden’s blitz trip across Europe (Group of Seven summit, NATO summit, followed by his much-touted meeting with Vladimir Putin) revealed a bizarre love quadrangle. The US is wooing the EU (to help contain China); the EU is still smarting from Donald Trump’s legacy of discord, so it’s not entirely on board the anti-China train (plus the ever-practical Europeans don’t mind getting into bed with Beijing when it comes to lucrative economic deals); Russia comes off as the ex who left both the US and Europe bitter (remember how great things were in the 90s? What happened, Moscow?); meanwhile, China is the pushy newcomer everyone loves to hate (who does it think it is, breaking the rules like that?).

In the end, this tangle of past grievances, future anxieties and present problems presents a complex knot to unravel. The goal of Biden’s trip was to show his allies across the pond that “America is back.” But according to Sergei Mikhailov, the rift that emerged thanks to Donald Trump is not about to go away, since European leaders realize that Joe Biden’s civility extends only as far as his term in office. Also, why didn’t Biden reverse a lot of Trump’s decisions, as he promised to during the campaign, wonders Ekspert? Apparently because “it’s one thing to run for president, and it is another thing entirely to protect US interests in the international arena. These are two completely different activities that often require opposing statements.”

This also explains why Biden’s meeting with Putin was so surprisingly warm. According to Ekspert, the two “are both typical examples of post-Yalta diplomacy,” and they “finally met a worthy counterpart, an outstanding statesman.” This apparently stands in stark contrast to the situation in most other countries, which “are led by functionaries, bureaucrats and parvenus.”

Perhaps his meeting with Biden inspired Putin to pen an article on the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazism. In it, the Russian leader also openly blames the expansion of NATO (a “cold war relic”) for ending the dream of a united Europe “from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

Russian officials happily took up this theme and ran with it at this year’s Moscow security conference, where Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Foreign Intelligence Service chief Sergei Naryshkin went into great detail about how the West done them wrong. (So what if the conversation was a little one-sided, given that NATO representatives have been boycotting the conference since 2014?) As it happens, Russia “rendered selfless aid to sovereign countries in their efforts to remain independent. In 1863, the Russian Empire helped the US protect its territorial integrity by dispatching two cruiser squadrons to protect its coast at the request of the US government.” And let’s not forget that it helped “the French save their statehood” on at least three occasions. Are you paying attention, Monsieur Macron?

But perhaps Naryshkin and Patrushev are a little too quick to write off the Europeans as ingrates, writes Anton Shekhovtsov. Moscow got its money’s worth in recruiting former European politicians to help it promote its various economic projects. The most famous such “celebrity spokesperson” was of course former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, known for his tireless efforts in promoting Russian energy companies. Then there’s former finance minister Hans Jörg Schelling, who has been an adviser to the controversial Nord Stream 2 project since 2018. The list goes on. Of course, Russia has its share of headaches from its Western partners, too. Take, for instance, America’s hasty exit from Afghanistan. “The ‘legacy’ that the Americans have left in Afghanistan will now be Moscow’s permanent headache for years to come,” write Nurlan Gasymov and Tikhon Sysoyev. Clearly, the awkward quadrangle of the US-Europe-Russia-China isn’t going anywhere – and will be a fixture on the geopolitical stage for decades to come.