From Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 23, 2021, p. 1. Condensed text:
In assessing the outcome of the June 16 US-Russia summit meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden both agreed that it was a success. I suppose we can concur with this conclusion of the leaders of these two superpowers. . . .
The very fact that this meeting was held in spite of the deep crisis in US-Russian relations is certainly a positive signal, a signal that the ruling elite of these two nuclear superpowers understands the importance of maintaining a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington regardless of anything else.
Naturally, it would be wrong to conclude on the basis of these recent developments in US-Russian relations that we are on the threshold of some sort of new “détente” or “reset.” There are major obstacles along the path to normalizing relations between the two countries, and it is still not entirely clear how they can be bypassed or overcome.
First, for the overwhelming part of the American establishment, the conflict with Russia is not the result of some political differences that can be settled through constructive dialogue. No, the US believes that there is a bottomless ideological abyss between the US and Russia.
Members of the American political and academic establishment are required to believe that Russia (along with China) seeks to undermine American democracy and make its “authoritarian model” mandatory for the entire world, just as faithful Soviet Communists were required to believe in the “hidden agenda of American imperialism.” This is why any attempt to get a dialogue going with Moscow will be perceived as an unscrupulous concession to “Putin’s authoritarian regime” and will thus be met with resistance from the “Washington swamp.”
In this regard, I would like to note that the US-Soviet détente only became possible after liberal interventionism was discredited during the Vietnam War and proponents of political realism like Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger came to power in the US. It’s hard to say when exactly similar changes will occur in today’s US.
Second, beginning with the 2016 presidential election, US-Russian relations became an important component of domestic political processes in the US. In fact, the American establishment attributed Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in that election to “Russian intrigues.” Of course, however, the true cause of all these absurd and wild accusations directed at “Russian hackers” and “Internet trolls” was the deepest domestic political crisis that the US political system had ever faced. And as long as this “cold civil war” continues in the US, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Washington to pursue a consistent and constructive Russia policy.
Thus, it remains unclear if we can count on new, positive changes in US-Russian relations following the Biden-Putin meeting in Geneva. For example, even if a new US-Russia agreement on strategic arms reduction can be reached, will the US Senate ratify it, given the anti-Russian sentiments on Capitol Hill and opposition from Republicans and Democrats?
Prospects for US-Russian dialogue on information security also remain unclear. Too many independent actors are operating in the global information environment, and Moscow and Washington are unable to control them, even with all their nuclear missile potential. This means that the US side will still be able to make unsubstantiated accusations against notorious “Russian hackers.”
Overall, we believe that measured optimism – but nothing more – is the most appropriate reaction to prospects for US-Russian relations following the Biden-Putin summit.