COLUMN-For Russia, aggression is seen as central to great power status: Peter Apps

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(The views expressed here are those of the author, columnist for Reuters.)

By Peter Apps

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) – When US President Joe Biden visited Europe last week, only one world leader captured his attention for an entire day: Vladimir Putin.

At his press conference in Geneva, Biden claimed the last thing his Russian counterpart wanted was another Cold War. The truth, however, is that in some ways what the West sees as Russia’s misconduct in recent years has achieved exactly what Moscow wanted: to be treated as a “great power,” on par with the states. -United and China.

Biden used this language specifically in his comments ahead of the meeting – an unambiguous victory for the Kremlin, even though the rest of the American and Western messages and activities were aimed at imposing financial and other costs on Moscow.

The costs of these measures are real: restricting Putin’s allies and associated companies in Western markets, limiting their access to banking services, and increasing NATO’s presence in Russia’s backyard, which Moscow hates. The truth, however, is that despite all of these things Russia – or at least Putin – has had a reasonable year so far.

More importantly, from his perspective, the Kremlin inflicted savage damage on the now faltering Russian opposition, putting leader Alexei Navalny out of service first by probable poisoning, then by imprisonment and evisceration of his support organizations. . Second, all of this was done without destroying the one project Moscow really wants to see, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.

Earlier this month, Russia announced that the pipeline itself was largely completed and would soon be filled as state-owned gas company Gazprom begins testing it to meet the demands of European regulators.

Completion of the pipeline isn’t quite the end of the story – changes to European regulations could force Gazprom to take further steps and potentially allow competing Western suppliers to use the same pipeline.

Yet to go this far is a major victory for Moscow. As recently as April, Washington still had hopes of blocking the project before easing sanctions against it under pressure from Germany.

THREATENING NUCLEAR FORCE

Unsurprisingly, both sides sought to claim last week’s result as a victory.

Russian media described the summit as a “major diplomatic victory” and a potential “reset” in relations with the West. In the weekend’s most-watched Russian TV show on public broadcaster Rossiya 1 on Sunday, host Dmitry Kisleyov directly attributed the meeting to the realization by the United States that Russia could transform it. ” into radioactive ash “.

Kisleyov linked the summit’s outcome to “Russian arms success,” an apparent reference to a number of advanced systems promoted by Moscow in recent years. They include the autonomous “Poseidon” 2M39 “nuclear torpedo”, designed to travel hundreds or thousands of kilometers and trigger radioactive tsunamis against an enemy coast, most likely the east coast of the United States.

For the United States, the biggest victories have been a relative display of Western unity, certainly compared to the days of the Trump administration. Biden was able to present himself as the linchpin of the Western alliance in a way his predecessor never even attempted, portraying Washington’s red lines to Putin on the issues that matter most to the United States.

This included a blunt warning to Moscow to curb hackers blamed by US authorities for a series of cyber attacks, the most serious and recently a ransomware attack that crippled US pipeline supplier Colonial Pipeline and threatened severe fuel shortages. in the eastern United States.

CYBER, UKRAINE

Washington is keenly aware that Russia’s nuclear arsenal and ambitions are central to its perception of itself as a world power, but it is Moscow’s more unconventional activity that worries officials the most. Americans.

In his post-summit press conference, Putin angrily dismissed Biden’s suggestion that Russia should do more to prevent cyber attacks from its territory, saying most of those attacks originate from the United States. Putin said Russia itself was also a victim of such attacks, some of which compromised essential services.

Another area that Washington would very much like Russia to step back on would be Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting since 2014. Here the signals are clearly mixed – but have once again offered to Moscow another opportunity to claim a Russian victory. .

Ukraine emerged from last week’s summits – especially Monday’s NATO meeting – with a slightly clearer roadmap for NATO membership as part of its membership plan, but with Washington signaling that it probably wouldn’t be a quick process.

In particular, Biden said Ukraine needs to curb corruption – a perpetual Western criticism of the country that is also frequently amplified by Moscow. This, along with the lack of any timetable for NATO membership, has been used by the Russian media to claim that Washington is “betraying” and abandoning Ukraine, causing concern to the people of that country.

Putin has enough issues at home to continue with – including a spike in the COVID-19 resurgence. But if the lesson Moscow draws from last week is that if the aggressiveness and aggressiveness make it perceive as a recognized “great power” by the United States – and allow it to sell this message nationally – it could become even more dangerous. *** Peter Apps is a writer on international affairs, globalization, conflict and other issues. He is the founder and executive director of the 21st Century Study Project; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan and non-ideological think tank. Paralyzed by a car accident in a war zone in 2006, he also blogs about his disability and other topics. He was previously a reporter for Reuters and continues to be paid by Thomson Reuters. Since 2016 he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labor Party. (Edited by Giles Elgood)



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