July 9 saw telephone negotiations between Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. This was their first discussion after the June 16 summit in Geneva. During the hour-long conversation, Putin and Biden "continued their dialogue on ensuring information security and countering cybercrime, which they started at the Russia-US summit in Geneva," the Kremlin press service reported. The two leaders also touched upon situation in Syria, with an emphasis on humanitarian aspects.
The Kremlin stressed that, "considering the scale and seriousness of the challenges in this area, Russia and the US must maintain permanent, professional and non-politicized cooperation. This must be conducted through specialized information exchange channels between the authorized government agencies, through bilateral judicial mechanisms and while observing the provisions of international law."
As for cyber security, here is what the Russian leader believes: "In the context of recent reports on a series of cyber attacks ostensibly made from Russian territory, Vladimir Putin noted that despite Russia’s willingness to curb criminal manifestations in the information space through a concerted effort, no inquiries on these issues have been received from US agencies in the last month."
During the conversation with Putin, the American President declared readiness to communicate on cyber security issues. Biden stressed his commitment to proceeding with cooperation on the threats posed by ransomware hackers. But if we follow Biden's statements, he is only ready for "communication" and "committed to extending cooperation" on cyber security issues, without taking, as Putin notes, specific moves to combat this major contemporary challenge.
Last Friday, Joe Biden said his conversation with Vladimir Putin was ok, and he felt "optimistic" about its results. But the tone of the American president's rather domestic statement suggests that Washington intends to keep using a patronizing tone when talking to Moscow. "I made it very clear to him that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it's not sponsored by the state we expect them to act," the head of the White House said. It seems that Biden's phrase "I made it very clear to him" is becoming his favorite when he describes conversations with President Putin, whether in person or by phone. And this phrase, be it noted, is toxic to the opponent as represented by the Russian leader.
But President Biden, and the United States as a whole, can hardly threaten Moscow for real at the moment, since Russia is no longer the same as it was in the 1990s. In military terms, it may even appear stronger than the USSR. But Washington seems unconscious of this fact or simply turns its back to it, while habitually intending to speak from a position of strength. Apparently, the White House simply failed to notice the Russian Armed Forces' performance in Syria. Their loss. Russia's military power is growing each and every day, while the US army is waning. The dishonorable flight of Americans from Afghanistan is clear proof of this.
As Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said in a recent interview with Channel One, the United States does not scrap plans to contain Russia, which adversely affects bilateral relations. "Nobody – I mean our American comrades – has abandoned plans to contain Russia. This cannot but have negative consequences, " the Kremlin spokesman stressed.
At the same time, going by a number of leaks, the Biden administration is changing its attitude to the sanctions policy. This, for instance, was recently reported by the renowned Wall Street Journal. According to the outlet, the revision itself will come to an end any time soon and actually implies the return of sanctions to their classic functions. The punitive one, when they are predictably introduced for foolproof sins. The restricting one, when the key objective of sanctions is not so much their introduction as the threat of their introduction to prevent the violations. And finally, the mobilization one, when sanctions are specifically designed to consolidate allies for collective pressure on the troublemaker. And, apparently, this entire sanctions complex will be primarily targeted against Russia and its Nord Stream 2 project, in the first instance.
However, our country does not intend to "idly watch" the US offensive. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington's pressure attempts were doomed to failure. Russia will harshly and decisively respond to any hostile moves, the minister said.
Russia is undoubtedly ready to assert its interests, and President Putin recently outlined the red lines not to be crossed by the West. Those are: the unacceptability of Ukraine's NATO membership; the non-deployment of medium- and short-range missiles in Europe, especially in the former Soviet republics; the West's waiver of attempts to overthrow Lukashenko's regime in Belarus; the inadmissibility of US and European efforts to arrange a color revolution in Russia; the unacceptability of financial and political support for Russia's anti-system opposition.
Moreover, following Geneva, President Putin used various opportunities to communicate with the press and the population, reiterating that the red lines drawn are existential for Russia, and neither pressure by the United States and the European Union nor sanctions will make Moscow abandon those unless concessions are made by both sides.
It can be certainly chalked up as an accomplishment that the Geneva summit has yielded the return of ambassadors to Washington and Moscow and willingness to discuss issues of strategic stability and cyber security. But that's not enough for a total recovery of Russian-American relations. This requires driving a whole layer of bilateral dialogue from the dead-lock, ranging from trade and economic relations to cultural ties. Just a reminder of President Putin's stance on the issue: the result in all the directions is only possible by means of finding a mutually acceptable balance of interests strictly on an equal footing.