Putin-Biden Meeting: Red Lines of the Great Powers

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On 7 December 2021, President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of United States of America (USA) Joe Biden talked about Ukraine. Even the discourse of the war about Ukraine has become ordinary; those who are aware of the seriousness of the situation are concerned about the developments happening on the line of Moscow and Kyiv. According to Moscow, Ukraine is preparing to attack the northern part of the country, which is under the control of Russia. The West is also supplying weapons and encouraging Ukraine for this. According to the West, Russia is preparing to take a more significant territorial part from Ukraine.

The USA-Russia relations are the lowest point historically. Worse bilateral relations are causing a lessening of predictability. In this situation, Putin and Biden’s meeting on “continuing the dialogue” can be analyzed as a positive consequence because both sides are searching to minimize the risk of war. However, both the USA and Russia are waiting to take the first step. “The risk of war” is used to urge the other side.

Moscow defined North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) incline towards the East as the “red line.” The increase of the number of NATO’s military base near Russia, deployment of its soldiers in the Western European countries, the frequent flights of bomber planes, and location of middle ranged strategic missiles next to the borders is accepted as a threat to national security by Kremlin. 

Ukraine’s strategic partnership with member states of NATO and weaponizing by NATO is understood by Moscow as Ukraine’s first step to becoming a member of the organization. Kremlin sees NATO as the USA’s geopolitical tool in Europe, and widening the organization towards the East is accepted as the infringement of Russia’s “red lines.” That is why Russia defines the situation as “casus belli.”

On the other hand, for Washington, Russia’s interruption to Ukraine is not a “red line.” However, the partnership of Ukraine and the USA and the role of the US providing security to Europe are increasing the risk of Washington facing Moscow. In that sense, the possibility of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is increasing the concerns of the US. Because the White House does not want a front that it needs to be a leader in and searching for ways to prevent it. In that sense, Biden listens to Putin’s concern to prevent the trigger of that kind of process while threatening Russia with economic sanctions and making Ukraine a “second Afghanistan” for Russia.

Putin also knows that the US is timid about Ukraine and threatens the Biden administration with the war against Ukraine. By doing that, he tries to be stronger on the issues of NATO’s expansion and negotiation on Europe’s security. Putin is waiting for legal insurance that NATO would not expand towards the East in this context. If the insurance is given to Russia, there would be significant consequences.

Firstly, Russia’s perception of threat coming from NATO would be neutralized. Therefore, the normalization of the US-Russia relations would be normalized. Thus, Moscow would change the direction of security politics from Europe to elsewhere.

Secondly, Russia would block Ukraine’s and Georgia’s membership in NATO. Moreover, the Westerner policy of those countries would be seriously harmed. This would lead them to feel lonely, and the perception of threat coming from Russia would increase. The situation would harm the domestic politics of those countries, and re-institutionalization would start. In the end, Kyiv and Tbilisi would have to deal with Moscow and would have worse relations with the West.

Thirdly, the Russian effect on the states such as Western Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, former Soviet Republics, would increase. Those territories will be accepted as Moscow’s areas of interest. Russia will position those countries as buffer zones between NATO and herself in that sense.

On the other hand, it should be noted that systematic reasons cause Russia’s problematic relations with the West. Furthermore, this situation leaves the negotiations inconclusive. Nevertheless, the most important result of the Biden-Putin meeting is that Europe’s security is under threat. Because active participation in the diplomatic means shows that the solution is possible if the sides show efforts. In other words, even talking about the problems contribute more to dialogue than taking steps to deepen the crisis. Besides, this is the aim of diplomacy. In short, the summit between the leaders aims to prevent the option of war from being realized.

Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.