Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
U.S. – Russia relations August 2021-
How much damage has the Trump-Putin collusion inflicted on the US?
If Trump shared American secrets with Putin, our intelligence agencies are not going to call a press conference to let us all know. Similarly, short of a trial for treason, it’s extremely unlikely such an allegation — even if true — will show up in a court of law.
(RawStory) … What if Putin has owned him for years?
From Russian oligarchs laundering money through his operations — real estate is the most common device used worldwide for money laundering — to keeping him alive in his most difficult times, like those multiple bankruptcies in the 1990s when he almost lost everything?
Or perhaps blackmailing him?
What if Putin got him the presidency, and he knows if America found out for sure it would destroy him?
Which begs the question: exactly how much damage might Trump have already done to our nation, and what does he have planned if he wins a second term?
In 2019 The Washington Post revealed that, throughout his presidency, Donald Trump was having secret phone conversations with Russia’s President Putin (over 20 have been identified so far, including one just days before the 2020 election).
The Moscow Project from the American Progress Action Fund documents more than 270 known contacts between Russia-linked operatives and members of the Trump campaign and transition team, as well as at least 38 known meetings just leading up to the 2016 election.
The manager of his 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort — who was previously paid tens of millions by Vladimir Putin’s people to install a pro-Putin puppet as Ukraine’s president in 2010 — has admitted that he was regularly feeding secret inside-campaign strategy and polling information to Russian intelligence via the oligarch who typically paid him on their behalf.
Heather Cox Richardson May 21, 2023
The list of 500 banned Americans that Russian president Vladimir Putin released on Friday makes it clear that Putin is openly aligning himself with Trump and today’s MAGA Republicans. The people on the list are not necessarily involved with U.S. policy toward Russia; they are Americans who are standing in the way of the Trump movement’s takeover of our country.
Since Trump’s attempt to overthrow the will of the voters on January 6, 2021, his supporters have imitated the language and the laws that enabled Putin to destroy representative democracy in Russia and Viktor Orbán to undermine liberal democracy in Hungary.
Attempting to set a new kind of imperial Russia up as a challenger to the liberal democracies that have held the majority of global power since World War II, Putin in 2019 declared liberal democracy “obsolete.” At a time when his own economic and social troubles at home threatened his continuing hold on power, he lashed out at democracy’s emphasis on equality before the law, saying that immigrant rights, gay rights, and women’s rights undermine “the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”
Mark Leon Goldberg: Hostage Diplomacy and the Case of a Wall Street Journal Reporter Detained in Russia
(Global Dispatches) On March 29th, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia and charged with espionage. The charges are spurious, but the intentions are clear: Evan Gershkovich is now a hostage in Russia and his release will require a delicate diplomatic balancing act.
My guest today Dr. Dani Gilbert is an academic who studies what she calls “Hostage Diplomacy.” She is the Edelson Fellow in US Foreign Policy and International Security at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College.
In our conversation today, we discuss the differences and similarities between the American basketball star Britney Griner case and the Gershovich situation. We also discuss what processes might lead to Gershkovich’s release and how this latest wrongful detention of an American abroad fits into larger patterns around government sponsored hostage taking.
What leaked docs show about U.S.-Russia fight for Middle East
U.S. partners Egypt and the UAE are cozying up to Moscow, documents allege, as they question America’s commitment.
Egypt considered sending tens of thousands of rockets to Russia. Kremlin spies claim the Emiratis are their new best friends. And Israel simply isn’t willing to give serious help to Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion.
Such assertions, contained in a series of leaked U.S. documents that have rattled Washington, underscore the challenge the United States faces in convincing Middle Eastern countries to fully back Ukraine against Russia. That’s especially true as the region’s leaders express increasing concern that the U.S. isn’t committed to them.
U.S. officials deny that they are abandoning the Middle East, pointing to America’s large military presence and strong security ties there. But the documents suggest multiple countries in the region are embracing Russia amid worries of an emerging, U.S.-shaped vacuum.
“All the countries in the Middle East now are wondering what it means to be aligned with the United States, what it costs to be aligned with the United States, and whether there are ways to supplement the relationship with the United States,” said Jon Alterman, a former George W. Bush-era State Department official who routinely speaks with Middle Eastern officials in his role at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Leaked Documents Reveal Depth of U.S. Spy Efforts and Russia’s Military Struggles
The information, exposed on social media sites, also shows that U.S. intelligence services are eavesdropping on important allies.
(NYT) A trove of leaked Pentagon documents reveals how deeply Russia’s security and intelligence services have been penetrated by the United States, demonstrating Washington’s ability to warn Ukraine about planned strikes and providing an assessment of the strength of Moscow’s war machine.
The documents portray a battered Russian military that is struggling in its war in Ukraine and a military apparatus that is deeply compromised. They contain daily real-time warnings to American intelligence agencies on the timing of Moscow’s strikes and even its specific targets. Such intelligence has allowed the United States to pass on to Ukraine crucial information on how to defend itself.
Heather Cox Richardson March 30, 2023
From the very start of his presidency, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation caught Trump’s then–national security advisor Michael Flynn lying about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, more and more information has come out tying the Trump campaign to Russian operatives. As it did, Trump insisted that his followers must believe that all that information was a lie. If they believed his lies rather than the truth over the Russia scandal, they would trust him rather than believe the truth about everything.
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has given a new frame to Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. …
In exchange for weakening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), undermining the U.S. stance in favor of Ukraine in its attempt to throw off the Russians who had invaded in 2014, and removing U.S. sanctions from Russian entities, Russian operatives were willing to put their finger on the scale to help Trump win the White House.
[Jim] Rutenberg* notes that Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine looks a lot like a way to achieve the plan it suggested in 2016 but, thanks to a different president in the U.S., that invasion did not yield the results Russian president Vladimir Putin expected.
*The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine – Russia’s meddling in Trump-era politics was more directly connected to the current war than previously understood.
Russia detains US reporter over spy allegations. White House erupts in fury
The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich — an American citizen — could face up to 20 years in prison.
RSF alarmed by US reporter’s arrest in Russia
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Russian authorities to clarify the espionage charges brought against a US reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is facing the possibility of up to 20 years in prison following his arrest yesterday – an arrest that is unprecedented since the Cold War. He must be allowed access to a lawyer and he must be released, RSF says.
A member of The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau, Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg, in western Siberia, where the Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that he was collecting information about “the Russian military-industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
Transferred in record time from Yekaterinburg to Moscow, he was placed in provisional detention by a Moscow court without his lawyer being allowed to talk to him.
Aged 31 and based in Moscow for the past six years, Gershkovich had gone to Nizhny Tagil, an industrial city known for its weapons factories that is 140 km north of Yekaterinburg, according to the independent news website Mediazona. His fixer and the local newspaper Vechernye Vedomosti said he had been investigating the methods used by the privately-owned military company Wagner for recruiting members of the local population.
Russian forces have reached the MQ-9 crash site, US officials say
From CNN’s Oren Liebermann
The Russians have reached the MQ-9 crash site in the Black Sea, according to two US officials, as the Kremlin promises to attempt to recover the US surveillance drone.
Russia’s Navy has several ships in the Black Sea, including ships based in Crimean ports, which would have placed them in an advantageous position to attempt to recover the US MQ-9 Reaper drone after its encounter with Russian fighter jets on Tuesday.
The drone came down in international waters approximately 70 miles southwest of Crimea, one of the officials said. It is unclear if Russia was able to recover any of the wreckage from the drone when they arrived at the crash site.
Russian Warplane Hits American Drone Over Black Sea, U.S. Says
A U.S. military official said that an American Reaper drone was brought down in international waters after one of two intercepting Russian jets hit its propeller. Russia denied that the jet made contact.
The Black Sea is a crucial theater in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, described Tuesday’s air confrontation as part of a pattern of Russian “coercive signaling” — military actions that fall short of use of force but are intended to affect an adversary’s behavior. Regardless of whether the collision was deliberate, he said,“the outcome was consistent with what the Russians were trying to achieve, which is to get the drone to go away” from what was likely a militarily sensitive area.
Russia’s military says the U.S. drone crashed after executing sharp maneuvers, not after a collision.
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied on Tuesday that one of its aircraft had come into contact with an unmanned American surveillance drone over the Black Sea, instead blaming the drone’s own maneuvers for the drone’s crash.
Blinken warns Central Asia of dangers from war in Ukraine
(AP) The Biden administration on Tuesday pledged to support the independence of the five Central Asian nations, in a not-so-subtle warning to the former Soviet states that Russia’s value as a partner has been badly compromised by its year-old war against Ukraine.
In Kazakhstan for meetings with top Central Asian diplomats, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said no country, particularly those that have traditionally been in Moscow’s orbit, can afford to ignore the threats posed by Russian aggression to not only their territory but to the international rules-based order and the global economy. In all of his discussions, Blinken stressed the importance of respect for “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”
“Ever since being the first nation to recognize Kazakhstan in December of 1991, the United States has been firmly committed to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Kazakhstan and countries across the region,” Blinken said after meeting in Astana with the foreign ministers of the so-called C5+1 group, made up of the U.S. and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
None of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, traditionally viewed as part of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, publicly backed the Russian invasion.
‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine
A first-ever oral history of how top U.S. and Western officials saw the warning signs of a European land war, their frantic attempts to stop it — and the moment Putin actually crossed the border.
(Politico) For nearly a year prior, U.S. and Western officials had signs of what was coming: a suspicious buildup of Russian troops, intelligence about the Kremlin’s plans, statements from President Vladimir Putin himself. Those officials raised increasingly specific public alarms, some of which were based on a novel new strategy of rapidly declassifying and publicizing intelligence in near real-time, and made desperate attempts to avert a war, even as it became more and more clear that Putin was determined to invade.
This is the story of the Biden administration’s strategy and reaction to that looming Russian invasion — the battle to persuade skeptics and rally foreign allies to confront an almost-unthinkable threat, one that continues to shake the world today
Putin blames the West for … everything
(GZERO) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin played all the greatest hits Tuesday when he took to the podium for a State of the Union address to Russian legislators and the military just days out from the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine war. In his typically defiant fashion, Putin said that the West “started the war” and warned that Moscow would not back down from its objectives in Ukraine, emphasizing Russian unity on the issue. He also revived the (debunked) justification that the war was crucial to “protect Russia and liquidate the neo-Nazi threat” from Kyiv. Crucially, Putin implied that Russia would break with the New START treaty, which limits Moscow and Washington to deploying 1,550 nuclear weapons a piece, though Russia has reportedly already exceeded that number. Suspending the treaty would also block the US from monitoring compliance. This comes just hours before US President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw
Biden Visits Embattled Ukraine as Air-Raid Siren Sounds
President Biden took a nearly 10-hour train ride from the border of Poland to show his administration’s “unwavering support” nearly a year into Russia’s invasion.
(NYT) President Biden made a surprise trip to the capital of embattled Ukraine on Monday, traveling under a cloak of secrecy into a war zone to demonstrate what he called America’s “unwavering support” for the effort to beat back Russian forces nearly a year after they invaded the country.
Experts react: One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden meets with Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Peter Dickinson: A bitter reaction in Russia
(Atlantic Council) Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv has been widely hailed as a victory by Ukrainians, who see it as a timely morale boost and a welcome indication of the United States’ long-term commitment to their country’s fight for survival. Meanwhile, news of the trip has sparked a mixture of shock and fury among Russian audiences. On Russian state TV, pundits discussing the visit attempted to spare Putin’s blushes by insisting that Moscow must have given Washington prior “security guarantees” in order for the trip to go ahead.
It is not hard to see why Biden’s presence in the Ukrainian capital provoked such a strong Russian reaction. His visit was a painful reminder that Russia has failed to achieve its military objectives despite twelve months of efforts and huge losses.
In Biden’s Unannounced Visit to Kyiv, a Preview of an Increasingly Direct Contest With Putin
The vastly different world views of President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia will become vividly apparent in a rare split-screen moment on Tuesday.
By David E. Sanger and Anton Troianovski
President Biden’s sudden appearance in Kyiv’s presidential palace on Monday morning was intended first as a morale booster for shell-shocked Ukrainians in the midst of a bleak winter of power outages and a bitter war of attrition.
But it was also the first of several direct challenges on this trip to President Vladimir V. Putin, who a year ago this week believed the Ukrainian capital would become Russian-controlled territory again in a matter of days, moving Mr. Putin closer to his ambition of restoring the empire of Peter the Great.
The war in Ukraine is about power and the principle of territorial sovereignty, and whether the Western-designed global order that Americans thought would prevail for decades will, in fact, survive new challenges from Moscow and Beijing.
Mr. Biden was in Kyiv on Monday for less than six hours before the Secret Service whisked him out of the city. (Notably, the White House informed the Kremlin of Mr. Biden’s impending visit before the president arrived, not as a diplomatic courtesy but for what Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called “deconfliction purposes” — essentially, to avoid a Russian strike, accidental or otherwise. Mr. Sullivan added, “I won’t get into how they responded.”)
Biden’s Midterm Report Card – foreign policy
Russia: No Guardrails for Putin
By Angela Stent, author of Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest
Today, the U.S.-Russian relationship is unstable and unpredictable. It has been impossible to establish guardrails around Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(Foreign Policy) The Biden administration came into office saying it wanted a “stable and predictable” relationship with Russia, seeking to create “guardrails” so the United States could focus on its main adversary, China. That worked for a time in 2021, with a U.S.-Russia summit that June and cooperation on a number of issues, including strategic stability, cyberattacks, and climate change. But once the U.S. intelligence community saw the massive Russian military buildup around Ukraine later that year, the administration realized that an invasion was in the cards. Washington shared this information with skeptical U.S. allies and warned Moscow that it knew what was happening. When the Kremlin presented its list of demands to the United States and NATO in December 2021, the administration was willing to negotiate and even make some concessions—all to no avail.
Since Russia’s invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden has successfully created a robust trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific coalition to support Ukraine and sanction Russia. Washington has provided the lion’s share of military equipment to Kyiv, enabling the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to succeed on the battlefield and push the Russians back. However, the administration has imposed restraints on what weapons it will supply Ukraine out of what are probably excessive concerns about Russian escalation, which has made it more difficult for Ukraine to achieve its objective of restoring control over its territory. A Patriot air defense battery and Bradley anti-tank vehicles will be sent, but this should have happened months ago. The Biden administration has also maintained some high-level channels of communication with the Kremlin, sending repeated warnings about the repercussions of Russia’s possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.
By Liana Fix, Europe fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
Biden wanted stability and guardrails in the United States’ relationship with Russia. But when Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to overturn the chessboard with his war against Ukraine, Biden managed to—abruptly and successfully—change course.
Biden remained firm on principles and did not fall for Russian negotiation traps in the run-up to the war. His strategy of making intelligence on Russia’s war preparations public was a crucial and creative innovation. And he rightly recognized alliance management and unity as the West’s greatest asset. Biden was not able to deter Putin from starting the war—but that would be a very high bar for measuring success, especially if the objective was to keep NATO out of the war.
What is needed going forward is decisive action to decide on and implement a Western theory of victory in 2023—and to develop a long-term strategy toward Ukraine and Russia beyond the war. After former U.S. President Barack Obama’s underestimation of Russia as a power and his successor, Donald Trump’s, infatuation with Putin, Biden’s Russia policy is arguably the most successful in more than a decade.
Russia is placing ‘a major bet’ on US midterm election outcomes, journalist says
By Joyce Hackel
Journalist Mikhail Fishman, an anchor at the independent Russian news outlet TV Reign, joined The World’s host Marco Werman to talk about how the Russian government is placing “a big bet” on US midterm elections outcomes that will favor Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
(The World) “The new Russian television sends the message that the Republicans will most likely take the House and probably the Senate, and then after that, they will stop writing blank checks to finance the war in Ukraine. That’s a big hope in Russia, and that’s what Russian television is spinning,” Fishman said.
“[Commentators are] expecting Donald Trump to get back into the White House. And that’s the second part of this big hope of failing Democrats during these midterm elections and presidential election of 2024. You have to understand that Moscow at the moment, the Kremlin, is eager to get into some kind of peace talks with Ukraine, with Kyiv. It urgently needs to freeze the conflict until the Russian military is rebuilt and Vladimir Putin can send it back to invade and attack Ukraine. But right now they need to freeze the conflict and they rely on the West, that the West will push Kyiv to enter peace talks with Moscow on Moscow’s terms. And it’s a major bet now on the midterms, and that after that, the White House will stop financing the war, will stop writing huge checks, and it’s a big bet.”
White House taking every step possible to avoid direct Biden-Putin encounter at G-20
U.S. officials also are taking precautions to avoid even a hallway run-in or photo meeting between the two leaders.
How to respond to Putin’s land grab and nuclear gambit
Steven Pifer, Nonresident Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy
(Brookings) On September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed agreements illegally incorporating the Ukrainian oblasts of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson into Russia. He said Moscow would “defend our land with all the forces and resources we have.” He previously hinted this could include nuclear arms. Nuclear threats are no trivial matter, but Ukraine and the world should not be intimidated. The West should respond with political and military signals of its own.
… As the Kremlin continues to prosecute a war of aggression and tries to persuade the world that its annexations are legitimate, Putin has chosen to play a risky game. Western messaging should ensure that Russian political and military elites understand that the game poses serious risks as well for Russia and for them personally.
John Sullivan, ambassador to Russia, departs post
Elizabeth Rood, previously second in command at the embassy, will take it over until the ambassador’s successor arrives.
John Sullivan, the United States’ ambassador to Russia, concluded his time in the role and left Moscow on Sunday after almost three years as envoy, according to a statement from the U.S. embassy in Russia.
Sullivan left the post suddenly because his wife, Grace Rodriguez, was very ill with cancer, he told POLITICO on Monday. Rodriguez, a prominent lawyer, died Monday after the illness took a turn for the worse in recent days, he said. They had been married for 34 years.
Elizabeth Rood…has been stationed at the embassy since June, but has been nominated to be the next ambassador to Turkmenistan.
Brittney Griner and the Total Lopsidedness of Prisoner Swaps with Russia
(NYT) Reports are circulating that the United States is negotiating with Russia to exchange two Americans being held in Russian prisons for a notorious arms dealer serving time in America. The deal is totally lopsided: The two Americans — the basketball star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a security company executive — are not criminals and certainly not remotely comparable to Viktor Bout, a notorious purveyor of arms to terrorists once known as the “Merchant of Death.”
But if that’s the way to get American citizens out of a Russian prison, do it.
The only caveat, an urgent one, would be to include in the deal Marc Fogel, an American teacher sentenced to an absurd 14 years in prison for taking marijuana into Russia.
Russia wants Viktor Bout back, badly. The question is: Why?
Bout, 55, is the most notorious arms dealer of his time, accused of profiting off weapons that fueled conflict in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
U.S. officials hope public pressure will bring Russian release of prisoners
The Biden administration disclosed publicly that the United States had made “a substantial offer” to Russia to secure the release of two American prisoners because closed-door negotiations had stalled, an administration official said Thursday.
U.S. officials say they have tried for weeks to broker the releases of Griner and Whelan. But the lack of progress, and the prospect of Griner soon facing conviction and sentencing on drug charges, prompted the administration this week to make the negotiations public.
Russia bans 963 Americans, including Biden and Harris — but not Trump
On Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry published an updated list of 963 Americans barred from entering Russia — a largely symbolic move featuring a wide-ranging collection of Biden administration members, Republicans, tech executives, journalists, lawmakers who have died, regular U.S. citizens and even actor Morgan Freeman.
— White House says Biden’s genocide remarks ‘what he feels is clear as day’: “The president was speaking to what we all see, to what he feels is clear as day, in terms of the atrocities on the ground,” press secretary Jen Psaki said, a day after Biden labeled the Russian invasion of Ukraine a genocide . Psaki noted there is still a legal process to play out in terms of an official declaration.
The American people’s message to President Biden about Ukraine—get tougher but don’t risk war with Russia
(Brookings) The latest survey of public opinion about the conflict in Ukraine presents a paradox. On the one hand, Americans say that they want President Biden to get tougher with Russia. On the other hand, their views about specific policies precisely track with the administration’s stance. Americans want the administration to do what the administration is already doing, and they do not want the administration to take the additional steps that it has already rejected.
(Politico) Treasury hits Russia with new sanctions targeting evasion networks, tech The Biden administration announced new sanctions today aimed at major Russian technology companies and sanctions-evasion networks, and expanded its ability to level penalties on the aerospace, marine and electronics sectors . The sanctions, which follow penalties on Russia’s defense industry last week, are part of a broader administration effort to restrict the country’s access to resources it needs to supply and finance its invasion of Ukraine, the Treasury Department said.
Biden on Russia’s Putin: `This man cannot remain in power’
(AP) — President Joe Biden said Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” dramatically escalating the rhetoric against the Russian leader after his brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Even as Biden’s words rocketed around the world, the White House attempted to clarify soon after Biden finished speaking in Poland that he was not calling for a new government in Russia.
Biden has frequently talked about ensuring that the Kremlin’s invasion becomes a “strategic failure” for Putin and has described the Russian leader as a “war criminal.” But until his remarks in Warsaw, the American leader had not veered toward suggesting Putin should not run Russia. Earlier on Saturday, shortly after meeting with Ukrainian refugees, Biden called Putin a “butcher.”
Biden also used his speech to also make a vociferous defense of liberal democracy and the NATO military alliance, while saying Europe must steel itself for a long fight against Russian aggression.
Earlier in the day, as Biden met with Ukrainian refugees, Russia kept up its pounding of cities throughout Ukraine
The president defended the 27-member NATO alliance that Moscow says is increasingly a threat to Russian security. He noted that NATO had worked for months through diplomatic channels to try to head off Russia’s invasion.
The war has led the U.S. to increase its military presence in Poland and Eastern Europe, and Nordic nations such as Finland and Sweden are now considering applying to join NATO.
Want to hurt Putin? Back a brain drain from Russia.
(Atlantic Council) Since the invasion, emigration from Russia has significantly ticked up—with some two hundred thousand people, many of them highly educated and hailing from the tech sector, having fled amid a terrifying new crackdown on dissent. One Russian trade group estimates that as much as one hundred thousand tech workers could leave in April (in addition to seventy thousand that have already fled).
But due to restrictions on air travel and visa requirements, they are largely ending up in Turkey and former Soviet countries. As many more Russians decide to leave in the coming weeks and months, the United States needs to act quickly to attract them by liberalizing refugee quotas and harnessing their potential benefit for US national interests.
A low-cost policy option with a high impact on Russia, welcoming high-skill immigrants would dent Russia’s economy and stifle its burgeoning technology and defense industries. It would also allow receiving countries to benefit from an influx of skills and expertise, as well as undermine Putin’s propaganda demonizing the West.
Breakdown of US-Russia diplomacy runs deep, beyond Ukraine
(AP) — Eyeing each other warily across negotiating tables, U.S. and Russian diplomats never much trusted each other. Yet even during the Cold War, they hashed out agreements on the biggest issues of the day.
Now the fierce, mutual hostility over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raises a critical question: Is U.S.-Russian diplomacy effectively dead?
The answer is crucial for reasons that go far beyond the Ukraine war and the immediate interests of both nations.
The United States and Russia have been at the center of almost every item on the global agenda, including arms control, space cooperation, cybersecurity and climate change. Progress on those issues and more, such as Arctic policy and maritime and aviation safety, largely depend on the two giants finding common ground.
There hasn’t been a total breakdown in diplomatic ties. For the moment at least, embassies remain open in both capitals despite a festering but unrelated diplomatic spat that has seen the two sides expel dozens of diplomats since 2017. And both Russia and the United States are involved in negotiations about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, now underway in Vienna.
Heather Cox Richardson: February 20, 2022
This afternoon, after a rare four-hour-long meeting of the National Security Council, President Joe Biden canceled a planned trip home to Wilmington, Delaware, tonight. The U.S. intelligence community says with high confidence that Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered military units to proceed with an attack on Ukraine. The U.S. and the United Kingdom say that they expect Russia to create a “false-flag” attack on Russia, allegedly by Ukraine, that they will use as an excuse to invade.
Tonight, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bathsheba Nell Crocker, told High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, that the United States has “credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation. We also have credible information that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations.”
A hallmark of this crisis has been the degree to which the U.S. has anticipated events by announcing to the world it has intelligence information laying out Russia’s next moves. This both enables NATO to get out ahead of Russian propaganda and warns Putin that his communications might be compromised, an idea that might give him pause before committing to invasion.
Russia continues to insist it is not planning an attack on Ukraine, although it has placed 150,000 troops at the Ukraine border, the largest military buildup in Europe since World War II ended. But the warming weather in Ukraine with the mud that it will bring does not bode well for an invasion, and Putin agreed today “in principle” to a meeting with Biden, an offer available only if Russia does not launch a new war.
Will There Be a War Over Ukraine? 13 Putin Watchers Weigh In
Here’s what Biden needs to know about the famously unpredictable Russian president — and Washington’s best next moves.
Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not open if Russia invades Ukraine, says US
US and German officials signal hardening of position on controversial gas link
US finalizing plans to divert gas to Europe if Russia cuts off supply
Officials working with global suppliers to avoid European gas crisis if flow from Russia is cut as Biden says he would consider personal sanctions against Putin
As fears of an invasion of Ukraine have grown, US officials said on Tuesday that they have been negotiating with global suppliers.
The preparation for bulk gas supplies deliveries is part of a campaign by the US and its European allies to show a united and coherent front to Putin in the hope of deterring him from invading Ukraine. Joe Biden said on Tuesday he would consider imposing personal sanctions on the Russian president himself.
The US also said it was preparing restrictions on exports to Russia of hi-tech software and hardware made by the US and its allies. Officials said the measures would affect Russian ambitions in the fields of aerospace, defence, lasers and sensitive, maritime technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computers.
U.S. puts 8,500 troops on alert as Russia tensions ramp up
The move comes as NATO allies deploy ships and aircraft to Eastern Europe.
Earlier Monday, NATO announced that European allies were deploying additional ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe and putting new forces on standby in response to Russia’s continued troop buildup along Ukraine’s border.
Why the partisan Putin split persists
(Politico Nightly) Biden’s administration is facing a problem with a complex array of possible solutions. The sheer scope of his options, militarily and diplomatically, doesn’t lend itself easily to rifle-shot statements of congressional support for specific aspects of his Russia policy.
Biden has made clear he won’t directly bring troops into Ukraine. Rather, his goal is to support and protect neighboring NATO powers.
And just as top Democrats followed Trump’s Syria strikes with clear insistence on a comprehensive plan to follow through, so will Republicans seek a longer-term strategy from Biden — even as they look for potential failings in anything they hear from him.
Russia and China’s plans for a new world order
For Moscow and Beijing, the Ukraine crisis is part of a struggle to reduce American power and make the world safe for autocrats
(Financial Times) When Vladimir Putin travels to Beijing for the beginning of the Winter Olympics on February 4, the Russian president will meet the leader who has become his most important ally — Xi Jinping of China. In a phone call between Putin and Xi in December, the Chinese leader supported Russia’s demand that Ukraine must never join Nato.
Biden insists U.S. won’t accept a ‘minor incursion’ by Russia into Ukraine after remarks drew criticism
“I’ve been absolutely clear with President [Vladimir] Putin. He has no misunderstanding: Any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” Biden told reporters Thursday at the start of a White House event on infrastructure.Such an invasion would be met with a “severe and coordinated economic response,” Biden added, noting that those consequences have been “laid out very clearly for President Putin.”
“Let there be no doubt at all: If Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price,” Biden said.
In the second news conference of his presidency Wednesday, Biden said he expected Russia to take some sort of action to “move in” and invade Ukraine and that the U.S. response “depends on what it does.”
Russia and the U.S. are playing chicken over Ukraine
Diplomacy can still prevent a full-scale war, but more escalation is likely.
As U.S. and Russia Prepare to Talk, Blinken Pushes Back on Kremlin Demand
(NYT) The U.S. secretary of state met with Ukraine’s president and said he had no plans to meet Russia’s insistence on a written diplomatic proposal on its demands for European security.
Two days before a meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Wednesday appeared to reject one of Moscow’s central requests, saying he would not provide his counterpart with the written response to Russia’s demands on Eastern European security that the Kremlin says it expects.
That stance could anger Russia ahead of Mr. Blinken’s planned sit-down in Geneva with Sergey V. Lavrov that may be one of the last chances for a diplomatic path to averting what U.S. officials fear is an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine.
U.S., Russia still poles apart after Ukraine talks in Geneva
Session begins a flurry of diplomatic talks this week, with Russian troops amassed near Ukraine border
(Reuters via CBC) Russia and the United States gave no sign that they had narrowed their differences on Ukraine and wider European security in talks in Geneva on Monday, as Moscow repeated demands that Washington says it cannot accept.
Russia has massed troops near Ukraine’s border while demanding that the U.S.-led NATO alliance rule out admitting the former Soviet state or expanding further into what Moscow sees as its backyard.
“Unfortunately, we have a great disparity in our principled approaches to this. The U.S. and Russia in some ways have opposite views on what needs to be done,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters.
Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said: “We were firm … in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters to the United States.”
Washington and Kyiv say the 100,000 Russian troops moved to striking distance could be preparing a new invasion eight years after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
Russia denies any such plans and says it is responding to what it calls aggressive behaviour from NATO and Ukraine, which has tilted toward the West and aspires to join the alliance.
EU’s top diplomat visits Ukraine frontline in show of solidarity
Josep Borrell’s trip comes as west steps up diplomatic efforts in response to Russian troop buildup on border
(The Guardian) In an attempt to defuse tensions, Russian and US officials are to hold talks on 10 January in Geneva, where the US president, Joe Biden, and Putin met last year. Two days later, western countries will meet Russia in the NATO-Russia Council. Talks will continue on 13 January through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a body that includes the US, its NATO allies, Russia and former Soviet states.
Secretary Blinken’s Call with the Bucharest Nine
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with the Bucharest Nine (B9) group of eastern flank NATO Allies. The Secretary and Foreign Ministers discussed Russia’s destabilizing military buildup along Ukraine’s border; the need for a united, ready, and resolute NATO stance for the collective defense of Allies; and transatlantic cooperation on issues of shared concern. The Secretary stressed the U.S. commitment to continued close consultation and coordination with all of our Transatlantic Allies and partners as we work toward de-escalation through deterrence, defense, and dialogue. They also highlighted their solidarity with Lithuania in the face of escalating political pressure and economic coercion by the People’s Republic of China. The Secretary underscored the United States’ unwavering commitment to Transatlantic security and to NATO’s Article 5.
Putin Warns Biden of ‘Complete Rupture’ of U.S.-Russia Relationship Over Ukraine
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spoke with President Biden for 50 minutes about the escalating crisis with Ukraine, but his intentions remained unclear.
Senior officials to lead Russia-U.S. security talks in Geneva on Jan. 10
(Reuters) – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will lead bilateral security talks in Geneva on Jan. 10, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, amid tensions over Ukraine.
Russia is set to hold talks with NATO in Brussels on Jan. 12, before a broader meeting on Jan. 13 involving the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.
President Vladimir V. Putin warned President Biden on Thursday that any economic sanctions imposed on Russia if it moves to take new military action against Ukraine could result in a “complete rupture” of relations between the two nuclear superpowers, a Russian official told reporters on Thursday evening.
The exchange came during a 50-minute phone call that Mr. Putin requested, and which both sides described as businesslike. Yet it ended without clarity about Mr. Putin’s intentions. He has massed 100,000 or so troops on the border with Ukraine, and issued demands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States to pull back their forces in the region, but apparently has not decided whether to order an invasion.
What Putin Really Wants in Ukraine
Russia Seeks to Stop NATO’s Expansion, Not to Annex More Territory
By Dmitri Trenin
(Foreign Affairs) As 2021 came to a close, Russia presented the United States with a list of demands that it said were necessary to stave off the possibility of a large-scale military conflict in Ukraine. In a draft treaty delivered to a U.S. diplomat in Moscow, the Russian government asked for a formal halt to NATO’s eastern enlargement, a permanent freeze on further expansion of the alliance’s military infrastructure (such as bases and weapons systems) in the former Soviet territory, an end to Western military assistance to Ukraine, and a ban on intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
These concerns were familiar to Western policymakers, who for years have responded by arguing that Moscow does not have a veto over NATO’s decisions and that it has no grounds to demand that the West stop sending weapons to Ukraine. Until recently, Moscow grudgingly acceded to those terms. Now, however, it appears determined to follow through with countermeasures if it doesn’t get its way. That determination was reflected in how it presented the proposed treaty with the United States and a separate agreement with NATO. The tone of both missives was sharp.
… Moscow’s demands are probably an opening bid, not an ultimatum. For all its insistence on a formal treaty with the United States, the Russian government no doubt understands that thanks to polarization and gridlock, ratification of any treaty in the U.S. Senate will be all but impossible. An executive agreement—essentially an accord between two governments which does not have to be ratified and thus does not have the status of a law—may therefore be a more realistic alternative. It is also likely that under such an agreement, Russia would assume reciprocal commitments addressing some U.S. concerns so as to create what it calls a “balance of interest.”
Will Putin Get What He Wants on Ukraine?
For now, Biden is the leader who prevented a war, but that’s not to say that the summit will be followed by a rapid de-escalation: not until Moscow sees new steps being taken by Washington on Ukraine. First and foremost, that means progress on implementing the Minsk agreements.
By Alexander Baunov
(Carnegie Moscow Center) At this week’s virtual summit on Ukraine with U.S. President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aim was to transfer responsibility for implementing the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict from the Europeans and Ukrainians to the United States. To encourage Biden to accept this responsibility, Russia has been staging military drills close to Ukraine’s borders, with enough troops massing there to launch an offensive. As Putin seeks a final formula for the configuration of the post-Soviet space, the signal is clear: if the Minsk agreements aren’t being implemented, the alternative is military force.
Biden warns Putin not to further invade Ukraine, threatens ‘strong economic and other’ consequences
(WaPo) President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video call not to mount a new invasion of Ukraine and laid out the economic and security costs Russia would face if the Kremlin chooses to go down that path, as the White House attempts to forestall a renewed war in Europe.
Biden also offered a diplomatic route to end the war scare that has arisen since the Kremlin, for the second time this year, massed troops and materiel near the border with Ukraine, raising fears of an offensive far larger and more deadly than the invasion eight years ago.
The two leaders came out of the virtual meeting and tasked their teams to engage in what the Kremlin called “substantive consultations” on sensitive European security issues, including Russia’s complaints that NATO is encroaching on its borders and conducting threatening activities on Ukrainian territory. In the run-up to the call, Russia had proposed starting talks on those issues.
Biden Administration Aligns With Russia to Support the Minsk ‘Agreements’ on Ukraine
(Ukrainian Weekly) Russia imposed the Minsk “agreements” on Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 through military force. Ukraine’s government and civil society regard the terms of those documents as inimical to the national interests. They spent these seven years resisting, evading, and asking to change those terms.
Throughout this time, Russia has repeatedly said in frustration that only Ukraine’s Western “curators” (patrons), first and foremost the United States, can deliver Ukrainian compliance with the Minsk “agreements.” Moscow offered all along to accept Washington in any negotiating format if Washington understood its role to be that of pressing Ukraine to comply. The Barack Obama administration tried to do this as part of its Russia Reset, but it ran out of time. The Joseph Biden administration, led by some Obama administration veterans, has embarked on another attempt, again subordinating its policy toward Ukraine to its policy toward Russia. While the Obama administration had smugly underestimated Russia, the Biden administration believes that it needs Russia’s cooperation on a wide range of global and regional challenges to the United States. Its quest for Russian “help” is forcing the administration into tradeoffs.
The Biden administration, therefore, seems prepared to “park” Ukraine in a gray zone between the institutional West and Russia.
Last week, the White House and the Kremlin agreed to start talks about a possible overall reconfiguration of security arrangements in Europe’s East, with Ukraine as the central object of negotiations. Russian threats of military action against Ukraine helped precipitate President Biden’s consent. Washington notified Kyiv about this decision again post factum (see EDM, December 8, 9), notwithstanding the recently signed strategic partnership. The White House has for a whole year declined to even nominate an ambassador to Ukraine (while the rumored possible candidates lack the necessary gravitas). The US-Ukraine strategic partnership rests on a bipartisan Congressional majority and the Pentagon at this point. Russia, however, proposes to bar not only NATO membership but also bilateral military assistance for Ukraine in the negotiations that were just announced.
Biden and Putin set to talk about Ukraine in video call on Tuesday
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday, with the two leaders set to discuss the tense situation in Ukraine.
Top U.S., Russian diplomats trade blame in talks over Ukraine
(WaPo) Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Moscow on Thursday to abandon plans for a potential invasion of Ukraine, calling for a peaceful resolution to an intensifying showdown between Russia and the West.
Blinken’s warning in talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow could face dire consequences over Ukraine, and Lavrov’s assertion in turn that NATO is threatening Russian security, underscored the obstacles to defusing the brewing crisis.
Their meeting on the margins of a European cooperation conference, Blinken’s second bilateral encounter with the Russian diplomat since becoming secretary of state, comes as the Biden administration threatens “high-impact” economic retaliation if Russia launches an offensive against Ukraine.
U.S., Russian Military Chiefs Speak On The Phone Amid Heightened Tensions Over Ukraine
(RadioFreeEurope) The United States’ and Russia’s top military officers spoke over the phone on November 23, amid heightened Western concerns over Russian military moves near the Ukrainian border.
Kyiv and its Western backers have raised alarm bells in recent days over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine, whose military intelligence chief claimed on November 21 that Russia has amassed 92,000 troops near its borders and was readying an attack in early February.
The Kremlin has called such allegations “groundless.”
Despite Moscow’s Brinkmanship, U.S. and Russia Explore Deeper Relations
The Biden administration aims to advance priorities like strategic stability, while keeping a close eye on Russia’s actions.
By Donald N. Jensen, Ph.D.
(U.S. Institute of Peace) Although at odds on a host of key geostrategic issues, Washington and Moscow have this year quietly sought to stabilize the tension-laden bilateral relationship. A June summit between Presidents Biden and Putin in Geneva has been followed by several high-level engagements in recent months between U.S. and Russian officials, including CIA Director William Burns’ early November trip to Moscow. For the Biden administration, this engagement allows it to explore areas of accord while closely watching Moscow and its efforts to undermine U.S. interests. For Putin, the talks demonstrate that Russia is the global power he claims it is.
31 October (Update 3 November)
Rivals on World Stage, Russia and U.S. Quietly Seek Areas of Accord
There have been a series of beneath-the-surface meetings between the two countries as the Biden administration applies a more sober approach to relations with the Kremlin
(NYT) The summit between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin in June in Geneva touched off a series of contacts between the two countries, including three trips to Moscow by senior Biden administration officials since July, and more meetings with Russian officials on neutral ground in Finland and Switzerland.
There is a serious conversation underway on arms control, the deepest in years. The White House’s top adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, Anne Neuberger, has engaged in a series of quiet, virtual meetings with her Kremlin counterpart. Several weeks ago — after an extensive debate inside the American intelligence community over how much to reveal — the United States turned over the names and other details of a few hackers actively launching attacks on America.
… Officials in both countries say the flurry of talks has so far yielded little of substance but helps to prevent Russian-American tensions from spiraling out of control.
Fiona Hill: The Kremlin’s Strange Victory
How Putin Exploits American Dysfunction and Fuels American Decline
(Foreign Affairs November/December) … The current U.S.-Russian relationship no longer mirrors the Cold War challenge, even if some geopolitical contours and antagonisms persist. The old U.S. foreign policy approach of balancing deterrence with limited engagement is ill suited to the present task of dealing with Putin’s insecurities. …
The primary problem for the Biden administration in dealing with Russia is rooted in the domestic politics of the United States and Russia rather than their foreign policies. The two countries have been heading in the same political direction for some of the same reasons over the last several years. They have similar political susceptibilities. The United States will never change Putin and his threat perceptions, because they are deeply personal. Americans will have to change themselves to blunt the effects of Russian political interference campaigns for the foreseeable future. Achieving that goal will require Biden and his team to integrate their approach to Russia with their efforts to shore up American democracy, tackle inequality and racism, and lead the country out of a period of intense division.