“The first Russian objective is to create a position of strength”

Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutine are due to meet on Tuesday, December 7 by videoconference, while the military mobilization of Russia, at the gates of Ukraine, raises all speculation. Appointed special representative of the United States in this country in 2017, Kurt Volker, now a researcher at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), had to resign from his functions in 2019 following his involvement in the pressure exerted by the American president Donald Trump on his Ukrainian counterpart; the case had resulted in the impeachment of Mr. Trump by Congress. In an interview with World, the former diplomat reconsiders the policy of the Biden administration vis-à-vis Russia.

When he arrived at the White House, Joe Biden did not claim any grand design in the bilateral relationship with Moscow, unlike Barack Obama’s attempt to “relaunch” (“reset”) …

Joe Biden didn’t like the word « reset », he claimed to do something different. He wanted to create a stable and more predictable relationship. His administration has chosen not to attack Russia on a number of issues: the annexation of Crimea, the occupation of parts of Georgia, electoral interference, the poisoning of [Alexeï] Navalny, the assassinations and poisonings in Europe… They said: we will try to work with Russia where possible, to lower the temperature.

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You may not like the word, but in fact it is a « reset ». It consists of drawing a line under the preceding events and of considering that one will react only from now on, in the event of bad behavior. But this harmful behavior of Russia, precisely, has worsened, instead of reduced. They had three major military mobilizations this year, Exercise Zapad [manœuvres conjointes qui ont lieu tous les quatre ans] and two around Ukraine. They have taken control, in effect, of Belarus on a security level. They dramatically accentuate rhetoric hostile to Ukraine, denying it the right to be a sovereign and independent state, and claiming that Russia has a say in its fate. We can also cite new cyber attacks.

The Russian president is asking for written guarantees on a stop to the extension of NATO, which his American counterpart cannot give him. What do you expect from the video interview between the two leaders?

Biden should tell him that neither NATO, Ukraine, nor Georgia pose a threat to Russia. No one is attacking it, no one has troops on its territory, while Russia has soldiers in neighboring countries. These are independent states, recognized by Russia, which had undertaken to respect their borders, which it does not do. If Russia does not launch an attack, new military incursions against Ukraine, everything will be stable. On the other hand, otherwise, there will be very severe consequences for it.

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“The first Russian objective is to create a position of strength”

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