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Between Washington and Moscow, the words are flying like missiles.

On Wednesday, in an interview with ABC News, President Biden agreed with his host, George Stephanopoulos, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a "killer." He was speaking after the Director of National Intelligence released a report accusing Russia's intelligence services of interfering in the 2020 US presidential election in an attempt to sow divisions and get President Trump reelected. "He will pay a price," Biden said of Putin.

The Kremlin quickly struck back, recalling its ambassador from Washington for consultations in a rare show of diplomatic pique. On Russian TV on Thursday, Putin responded with a touch of verbal judo, suggesting that Biden had really been describing himself: "We always see our own qualities in another person and think that they are like us."…  Seguir leyendo »

Photo: Odd Andersen Agence France-Presse Le gazoduc Nord Stream 2 de la compagnie russe Gazprom soutenu par d’importants groupes énergétiques européens est achevé à 95%.

La plupart des pays d’Europe se réjouissent du fait qu’après avoir été bousculés par le gouvernement Trump sur bien des enjeux (retrait de l’Accord de Paris, répudiation de l’OTAN, désengagement de l’OMS), ils retourneront, avec le gouvernement de Joe Biden, à une relation de bon ton avec le continent. Mais cette relation ne pourra faire l’économie de certains litiges qui l’ont marquée au cours des dernières années. Parmi ceux-ci : le gazoduc Nord Stream 2 reliant la Russie à l’Allemagne.

Ce gazoduc de la compagnie russe Gazprom soutenu par d’importants groupes énergétiques européens est pourtant achevé à 95 %, avec plus de 10 milliards d’euros déjà investis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fresh allegations of Russian meddling in the upcoming US Presidential election shine a harsh spotlight on the dangerous deadlock between the nuclear-tipped powers. In a reprise of 2016, Moscow is apparently pushing hard for Donald Trump to win the White House. But is a Trump second term really in the Kremlin's best interest? Or would a Joe Biden win actually be the more pragmatic outcome for Russia?

On the surface, a stable Biden presidency, including a strong, no-nonsense Vice President Kamala Harris, would seem unpalatable to Moscow. Biden is well-acquainted with Russian President Vladimir Putin from before and during his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration.…  Seguir leyendo »

American and Russian flags in Helsinki on 16 July. Photo: Getty Images.

President Donald Trump's joint press conference with Vladimir Putin has sparked anger, embarrassment and shame in the United States. But there are two key aspects of the summit that are being overlooked. They are that, first, anybody who was surprised by Trump's willingness to accommodate President Putin has simply not been paying attention; and second, that it could all have been so much worse. In fact, both the United States and its European allies may have got off lightly.

Trump's reluctance to recognize Russia as an adversary that means harm to the US was already well demonstrated before the summit, as was his unwillingness to address Russia’s aggressive behaviour against the US and its friends and partners in Europe and beyond.…  Seguir leyendo »

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands during their joint press conference on 16 July. Photo: Getty Images.

Contrary to the worst fears, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the two controllers of 92% of the world’s nuclear weapons, did not fall out badly and Trump did not concede a Soviet-era sphere of influence to Russia. But their unprecedented meeting in Helsinki has still given a win to the Kremlin and sent shockwaves through the United States, with effects on American foreign and domestic policy that will play out over the coming weeks and months.

Just by getting the summit held, the Kremlin scored a post-World Cup goal – the event, at least for a while, puts Russia on a par with the United States in terms of political weight, a key Russian objective.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a flair for understated drama. When he met with Donald Trump last July, his cool gaze at the floor contrasted with the more animated gestures of the U.S. president. And so when the two meet again on Monday, Putin is unlikely to greet Trump with a bouquet of flowers as he did German Chancellor Angela Merkel in May. But the Helsinki summit will nonetheless be a contest of theatrical power projection—and it’s one that Putin has perhaps already won.

The game Putin plays is not so much about practicing diplomacy or striking deals; it is about optics, both at home and abroad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet during the APEC summit in Vietnam on 11 November 2017. Photo via Getty Images.

The G7 meeting in Quebec last month must have delighted Vladimir Putin for its bad tempered display of ill feeling between President Donald Trump and his Western colleagues. Trump’s apparently unscripted suggestion that Russia should be asked to rejoin the group, because there is a world to be run, was no doubt a welcome sign for Putin of Trump’s mood in the run-up to the NATO summit on 11-12 July, the US president’s visit to the UK after it, and finally their bilateral meeting in Helsinki on 16 July.

The overall bedrock and purpose of Trump’s policies towards Russia are not clear.…  Seguir leyendo »

US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Getty Images.

Since Donald Trump took office, Russia has come to hold a unique position in US internal and foreign affairs. It is not simply another ‘rogue state’ in the international arena, but has become a hot-button domestic issue, with ongoing investigations into alleged collusion with the Kremlin.

Trump's personal deference to Vladimir Putin does not reflect the broader picture of tense US–Russia relations. The political and military establishment in Washington sees Russia as a threat, as outlined in the recently published National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Defence Strategy (NDS).

The NSS calls Russia a ‘revisionist power’ while the NDS proclaims the US is in ‘strategic competition’ with the Kremlin.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Vladimir Putin, of Russia, in June. Credit Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

I last visited Russia in October to do research for a study of American-Russian relations. I returned home just before the election of President Trump, recognizing that the relationship was in terrible shape and heading steadily downhill. It continues on that trajectory, with Russia’s demand that the American diplomatic mission reduce its staff by 755 employees, in response to new sanctions imposed by Congress that were signed last week by President Trump.

That October trip and succeeding events raise important questions: Where does the United States want this to go? What is our vision of an acceptable end point? More than six months into the Trump administration, there are no answers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Is Russia Testing Trump

This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is making his first diplomatic visit to Russia, where he’s likely to press Moscow on its handling of Syria, which he has called “incompetent.”

But Mr. Tillerson should recognize that Russia’s involvement in Syria is only one example of the increasingly active, and disruptive, role that President Vladimir Putin has been playing on the world stage since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In January, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, most likely at the direction of Mr. Putin, ramped up their fight against Ukrainian government forces, bringing the violence there to its highest level in a year and a half.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev serves at the pleasure of President Vladimir Putin. And Putin may not be pleased any longer.

Last weekend, protestors in cities all over Russia, overwhelmingly young, demanded that Medvedev resign. The organizer was Alexei Navalny, a 40-year-old lawyer who has dedicated his life to opposing the Putin regime. He had swung through European Russia and Siberia in recent weeks, gathering support. In early March he released a film that featured a detailed report on Medvedev’s corruption – an account of vast estates, palatial homes, two yachts and a vineyard in Tuscany.

Russian police detained Navalny on March 26, sentenced him to 15 days in jail for disobeying a police officer and fined him for organizing an illegal protest.…  Seguir leyendo »

Donald Trump with HR McMaster, the new national security advisor, and his chief of staff, Keith Kellogg. Photo: Getty Images.

The appointment of the widely-respected Lieutenant General HR McMaster as national security advisor follows a week of strong messages delivered to Russia, including in face to face talks. While the US administration fights allegations of Russian influence at home, three of its most senior officials have been abroad sending firm messages directly to Moscow.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson knows from experience what is effective and what is not in negotiations with Russia, and emphasized the defence of American interests ahead of his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke at NATO of the need to negotiate with Russia ‘from a position of strength’, and for Russia to ‘prove itself’.…  Seguir leyendo »

There is a question as to how or even whether the new US administration will establish a coherent policy towards Russia. Photo by Getty Images.

Donald Trump believes his personal relations with Vladimir Putin are an asset to be used in a fresh approach towards Russia, and it is in the Kremlin’s interest to feed the idea that if only the Americans would ‘engage’ then deals could be done. Good relations are not, however, a policy in themselves but something realized over time as cooperation over different issues grows. The question therefore is not whether the US should talk to the Russian authorities, which it already does, often crossly, but what can realistically be expected from Moscow’s response?

Washington has yet to develop a coherent set of policies or objectives towards Moscow, or to establish clearly who might be responsible for that task.…  Seguir leyendo »

La toma de posesión del 45º presidente de Estados Unidos no puede hacernos olvidar que Donald Trump no debe su elección al voto popular, sino a una particularidad del escrutinio norteamericano: Hillary Clinton obtuvo dos millones y pico más de votos, pero un escaso margen de 11.000 votos repartidos en tres Estados le dieron el triunfo a él. Así se explica sin duda el récord de impopularidad del nuevo presidente, que acaba de instalarse en la Casa Blanca en minoría.

Puede que a la mayoría de los norteamericanos le preocupe comprobar que el areópago que rodea al nuevo mandatario recuerda al consejo de administración de Goldman Sachs.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Obama presidency is almost over -- and Russian officials can't wait. They're not mincing words.

"God created the world in seven days," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said this week on her Facebook page. "The Obama administration has (seven plus) two more days to destroy it."

During the election campaign, Russian state media criticized America's "sham democracy." That strategy no longer worked when Donald Trump won the presidency.

Now anti-Americanism has given way to personal attacks on Barack Obama. The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman is one of the more creative Obama bashers, taking to Facebook several times a day with zingers such as this:

"It seems to me that if 'Russian hackers' have hacked something in the US, it was two things: Obama's brain and, of course, the very report about the 'Russian hackers.'"…  Seguir leyendo »

The Russian flag flying at the annual International Military-Technical Forum in Kubinka, west of Moscow. Sergei Ilnitsky/European Pressphoto Agency

In the quarter-century since the end of the Cold War, profound grievances, misperceptions and disappointments have often defined the relationship between the United States and Russia. I lived through this turbulence during my years as a diplomat in Moscow, navigating the curious mix of hope and humiliation that I remember so vividly in the Russia of Boris N. Yeltsin, and the pugnacity and raw ambition of Vladimir V. Putin’s Kremlin. And I lived through it in Washington, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations.

There have been more than enough illusions on both sides. The United States has oscillated between visions of an enduring partnership with Moscow and dismissing it as a sulking regional power in terminal decline.…  Seguir leyendo »

George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, July 1991. Rick Wilking/Reuters

Less than two hours before announcing his resignation as president of the Soviet Union on Dec. 25, 1991, Mikhail S. Gorbachev placed a telephone call to President George H. W. Bush, who was celebrating Christmas with his grandchildren at Camp David.

In the weeks before, it was clear that the Soviet Union was disintegrating: Ukrainians had voted for independence in a national referendum, and other Soviet republics were following suit. Boris N. Yeltsin’s star was rising as a leader, and he was determined to get rid of the “center” and Mr. Gorbachev.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev had been working together to try to prevent a bloody breakup of the Soviet Union and to solve regional conflicts like the Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

Any presidential administration’s top charge is to protect U.S. national security interests, and now more than ever, that important endeavor must start with addressing a resurgent Russia.

Over the course of President Vladimir Putin’s time in office, Russia has been the purveyor of an anti-democratic agenda, completely antithetical to values that we as Americans hold dear — the liberal democratic process, human rights, sovereignty and the rule of law. Russia has interfered in our election, endangered lives in Ukraine and Syria and sought to dismantle the rules-based international system which has provided stability since the end of World War II.

Those are indisputable facts.…  Seguir leyendo »

A crew lines up on the Kuzbass nuclear submarine during a rehearsal for the Navy Day parade in the far eastern port of Vladivostok, Russia, July 30, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia was ready to fully restore relations with the United States following the election of Donald Trump. But even so, when Trump assumes power on Jan. 20, he will inherit a Russian-American relationship in deep crisis.

While Washington and Moscow’s disagreements over Ukraine, Syria, NATO and Russian cyber hacking received the majority of attention during the presidential campaign, both Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton  ignored perhaps the greatest threat of all from the downturn in U.S.-Russian relations: the rise of nuclear tensions. And unless both Washington and Moscow take steps to reverse what one Russian analyst calls “a creeping crisis over the international arms control regime,” the risks of a nuclear confrontation somewhere in the world will increase dramatically.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian servicemen are seen standing on an Armoured Personnel Vehicle (APC) through a broken window in the village of Horlivka, Donetsk region, on February 4, 2015. (Volodymyr Shuvayev/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States is on a dangerous trajectory in its relations with Russia, a nuclear superpower that believes itself to be under direct threat. Several former U.S. officials and top think-tank experts released a report calling on the West to provide military support to Ukraine. (Two of them, our colleagues at the Brookings Institution, expanded on the report a week ago on this page [“Ukraine needs the West’s help now”].) The logic of sending weapons to Ukraine seems straightforward and is the same as the logic for economic sanctions: to change Vladi­mir Putin’s “calculus.” Increasing the Ukrainian army’s fighting capacity, the thinking goes, would allow it to kill more rebels and Russian soldiers, generating a backlash in Russia and ultimately forcing the Russian president to the negotiating table.…  Seguir leyendo »