Summit Yawn

I feel that I should write something about the outcome of the much-awaited Putin-Biden meeting in Geneva, but to be frank it’s a bit of a yawn. As was to be expected, nothing much was decided, though they at least avoided a major bust-up (it would have been more newsworthy if they hadn’t). The Russian news agency TASS asked me for a comment, and I replied as follows:

Expectations were low regarding this summit and it’s fair to say that those expectations were met. Nobody foresaw a major breakthrough on any issues, and there weren’t any. At most, they agreed to keep talking, especially on nuclear arms control. That said, the two sides took a very, very modest step towards better relations, as seen by the announcement that the respective ambassadors will be returning to their posts. Overall, I would assess as it as a very moderately positive outcome, but the gap between the two sides remains extremely wide.

In essence, there’s not a whole lot to say about the summit. The real issue is how both sides go on from here. There are serious impediments to any forward movement. It’s not just that the USA and Russia have incompatible views of their own national interests. It’s also that there appears to be an almost complete lack of mutual trust. Consequently, I tend to the view that what matters is not reaching agreement on any substantial matters but preventing the hotheads on either side from dragging US-Russia relations even further into the depths. In other words, it’s not about repairing relations, it’s about preventing them from collapsing entirely.

On the Russian side, the big danger, to my mind, is that some idiot in the security and intelligence services will take it into his brain to do something crazy, like the poisonings of Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny, or even worse. Sadly, one can’t rule it out. Beyond that, outside of the talking heads on Russian TV shows, I don’t see any appetite for conflict in Russia. I see of lot of resignation that it’s unavoidable, but no desire to make things worse.

I’m less confident in that regard when it comes to the Americans. Biden himself seems fairly level-headed, but as I pointed out in a recent post about Ambassador Kurt Volker and his phrase “success is confrontation,” there is an element in the US foreign policy establishment that seems to be gunning for a fight. On the American side, the challenge will be to see these people off.

I suspect that Biden will be able to quieten the extremists on his side a little bit by pointing to the fact that he used the summit to raise issues with which Putin might feel uncomfortable, such as human rights. No doubt Biden’s supporters will use this as evidence that he is suitably “tough.” In reality, though, this is so much window dressing. One can’t imagine that it will change Russian behaviour in any way. More important is what Biden didn’t do, which is that he didn’t go out of his way to annoy Putin. Nor did he put any obvious spokes in the way of future negotiations. In fact, the summit ended with agreement to keep talking on some key matters. That’s not exactly progress, but it’s not the confrontation that Volker and his ilk were looking for.

In that sense, I see the summit as a bit of a defeat for the hardliners in Washington. Not a huge one, to be sure, but still a setback for them. Given that we couldn’t realistically have expected anything more, I think that on the whole we can consider the meeting a job well done.

26 thoughts on “Summit Yawn”

  1. No, Paul, you’ve missed something. Biden in all his talking still uttered ultimately stupid things – check The Rational National on this one somehow he sees the US’s own inadequacies but still believes Russia is culpable – and you still quote Skripal and Navalny as somehow having been touched by Russian malfeasance. Western culpability goes much deeper here, and Russian malfeasance can be limited to domestic overbearance. This is a summit Biden needed, Putin could miss. The path forward is nowhere. The Eurasian alliance will continue. The reduction of Anglo-American influence in worldwide governance will continue; and will erode EU confidence as well. We have a world forming that will look to align themselves in minor or major ways with the Eurasian axis. Those that seek to oppose it are doomed. This realization will mean that the G7 will erode slowly due to various economic agreements that will make the Anglo-American “alliance” a dalliance, not an alliance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Navalny was a straight extraction job, obvious from day one. The fact the idiot decided to go back was a massive ego miscalculation. These people simply don’t understand how the West works, especially the ‘intelligence’ services. Protasayavich has recently discovered same, which will cause a ripple of fear and unease amongst the ‘governments’ in exile community. We are all expendable. Salisbury is basically in Wuhan territory isn’t it? Are we to believe this attack which took place 5 miles down the road from Porton Down (who undoubtedly has stores of novichok or at least the recipe, given to them by either the US or Israelis after the person who invented it defected to the West, along with his recipes) and first on the scene for the poor Skripals was the retired head of the British Army medical unit … ditto Wuhan coronavirus lab doing gain of control experiments for the Americans. Its harder to believe it was the Russians as much as it is that bats and pangolins made an unholy alliance. But I’m open minded enough to entertain further evidence although John Helmer has amassed so much evidence against the Salusbury ‘hit’ it is hard to believe it any more.

      Anyway the thing that appalled me most about yesterdays non event was the sheer unprofessionalism and visceral hatred of the US press for Russia/Putin … who do they think they are? Poor old American eh? With a press corps like that who needs fascist overlords.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Great comment, Gerald. One nitpick: I think it is called “Gain of Function” research, what the Wuhan lab was doing. They were trying to “train” viruses to be better at what they do. Some people might call this “germ warfare”, but those people might be called Negative Nellies…

        The really intriguing part of this is that none other than America’s Saint Anthony Fauci was helping to fund this Chinese research. Which may, or may not, have inadvertently unleashed the Coronavirus on the world. About which Fauci lied his guts out.

        I hate to diss on the Chinese, but it is looking more and more likely that is the more likely scenario than the “bat soup” theory. Only comfort to be drawn, is that Fauci himself has been completely debunked as a fraud; which is to the betterment of the American consumer who was taught that he was infallible.


  2. Yes, a yawn. It was,however, interesting to read and listen to the main stream media and their analysis of the event. There were two distinct strands of reporting.
    The first one, less common, was trying to convince us it was Putin who really needed to be seen in Geneva and as a result to come out of “cold storage”. In short, Biden was dispensing a favour.
    The second one, rather popular, painted a picture of Biden “the teacher” coming to put Putin “the naughty boy” in his place.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. The second one, rather popular, painted a picture of Biden “the teacher” coming to put Putin “the naughty boy” in his place.

      The arrrogance of power? One can read both strands that way?

      Biden’s press performance was carefully choregraphed.

      Putin took a vaguely populist lane. Not completely sucessfully, as far as I am concerned. But I am not part of the main target audience.

      But nothing of that matters, if their teams manage to find common ground on some issues. I would love to be a fly on the wall in their exchanges on cybersecurity.

      Two topics would have been interesting to me Syria and the Ukraine.


      1. On MSNBC last night, Julia Ioffe contradicted the arrogantly ignorant Brian Williams and Claire McCaskill, by noting that Putin has regularly faced tough questions before the Russian public. Putin could’ve done a better job with that blowhard ABC reporter, by (among some other things) asking where’s her concern for Julian Assange and why doesn’t she go after Biden on that particular?

        The sanctimonious Western political and media elites typically duck the hard realities running counter to their misguided impressions against Russia.

        So-called “whataboutism” can be quite appropriate. BTW, NBC’s Keir Simmons engaged in whataboutism when he asked Putin about the Uighurs in China. Putin could’ve noted that the treatment of the Uighurs has been a reported issue for decades. From decades ago, I recall reports of some Uighurs fleeing China for the USSR.

        Biden’s babble about US concern for human rights being in the American DNA is inaccurate and arguably bigoted in its suggestive claim of having a moral supremacy. Going back to at least Carter, the US government hypocritically used human rights as a propaganda tool. Under Carter, human rights issues in the USSR were trumped over the greater abuses in China and Romania. In the present, the Biden administration has continuously downplayed human rights issues in Kiev regime controlled Ukraine, when compared to Russia.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. The reality is that Biden came to kiss the hand in the hope that Russia will be amenable to arms limitation talks. They’re way, way ahead of the US both in conventional missile systems and nuclear delivery systems. Of course Russia has no intention of a first strike – even if they do now in fact have first strike dominance – but best be sure has got to be the US motto. Biden is following (his?) and Obamas failed policy of ‘park’ Russia pivot to Asia. It was a failure 14 years ago, the world is a changed place today, Russia is much stronger, America much weaker, but it will fail again.


  3. Before the summit there were rumors of a prisoner exchange between the 2 nations: Navalny will be released to the USA; in return for Viktor But and Konstantin Yaroshenko [I don’t know who the latter is].
    However, this did not happen, and Peskov (=Putin’s Press Secretary) denied that such a discussion happened.

    On the other hand, there was talk that Hunter Biden might be given a highly lucrative post on the Board of Gazprom. [I just made that last one up 🙂

    As the two world leaders approached one another on the tarmac, I wonder if Biden was heard to say: “Hey, how ya doin’, Fat? I’d like to meet your 9-year-old granddaughter, she’s such a little lady with that barette in her hair… with her legs crossed like a perfect little lady… If you don’t like me, then you ain’t Russian… you know the thing….”


    1. That’s not a bad idea, actually., yalensis. They can give him Schröder’s seat on the board. A lot of Germans would be happy. 😉


  4. “In that sense, I see the summit as a bit of a defeat for the hardliners in Washington.”

    Meh. Whatever happens on a summit is more or less orthogonal to the hardliners’ campaign. The hardliners do what they do, the summit gives them an excuse to rant.

    Of course when it’s a D-president, they have to hold their tongues: ‘we’re deeply concerned’ instead of ‘lynch the traitor!’. But that has nothing to do with the actual outcome of the summit.


    1. Better?

      Trump: Biden-Putin Meeting a ‘Good Day for Russia’ — ‘We Gave a Very Big Stage to Russia, and We Got Nothing’

      Wednesday, during an interview with FNC host Sean Hannity, former President Donald Trump gave his successor President Joe Biden low marks for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland earlier in the day.

      According to Trump, although Putin got to be on the world stage alongside the U.S. president, Biden got nothing in return.

      “Let’s start with the events today and your overall thoughts,” Hannity said. “And I want you to address — I will get to a very specific question, but, first, let’s start with your overall thoughts today and what Biden was facing in Putin. And then we will move on from there.”

      “Well, I guess the overall is, we didn’t get anything,” Trump replied. “We gave a very big stage to Russia, and we got nothing. We gave up something that was unbelievably valuable. I stopped the pipeline, Nord Stream. And that pipeline was stopped. And it was given back, and nothing was gotten for it. And it was just — it was another day. And performance art, you will take a look at how various people performed, namely, the two people. And, you know, you have to form your own judgment. It’s not for me to say. But I will say that it was — I think it was a good day for Russia. I don’t see what we got out of it.”

      Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


  5. Have the western narratives concerning poisoning of Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny been proven? Are they even plausible? It seems that the poisoning story is easy for Russia to deny and is not very plausible. Taking Navalny as an example, we find a completely free man travelling inside Russia, known of course as a sort of annoyance to the government, is suddenly stricken by a seizure on a flight. The flight is diverted, doctors are on hand at arrival to make their analysis. Many health issues such as an anti depressant taken and a diabetic condition are revealed as the likely cause. No poisoning. “Take us to Berlin” say the entourage of Navalny. After literally weeks, a sudden countervailing diagnosis of poisoning is made by a military lab in Munich, not Berlin, and for which no doctor takes any credit. This seems to satisfy those who want at all cost to accuse Russia. But it makes no sense and has been challenged by other doctors. Skripal is even worse in terms of proof. The Russian ambassador was never given any details of the purported poisoning and learned about it from a speech by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. Does this have any plausibility? Fast forward, if Biden has to spend his time defending flimsy narratives which the Russians simply deny, then how are things going to move forward? The real problem with American foreign policy is the time consumed in defending so many cock-eyed narratives without getting their facts all mixed up.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. a sudden countervailing diagnosis of poisoning is made by a military lab in Munich
      add to that, no German ever heard about before. … But a lot of Germans by now obviously are aware of Porton Down , Wiltshire. 😉


  6. Prof. Robinson,
    You are a rare sensible voice on Russian matters in the West.
    Please, give me the facts that have convinced you that the Russian government is responsible for the poisoning of Skripal and Navalny? Also why do you believe the Czech government that Petrov and Boshirov were there before that explosion? Have they shown any proof? Or you just believe them?
    Can tell us your opinion on the other murder accusations (Anna Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, etc.)?
    What about MH-17?
    I am aware of these accusations, and I know how well they are used against Russia, but I have not seen any convincing evidence that prove them.
    Please, convince me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. First stiipulating that coincidences do actually happen in the real world, that’s just a statistical truth. But still should be noted the implausibility of the totality, i.e.:

      All of these horrific crimes allegedly committed by the Russian government, just seem to, miraculously and completely coincidentally happen on the cusp of a major geopolitical event, and just at the time most convenient for the American Empire and its vassals.

      To wit: MH-17: To rally international public opinion for the Ukrainian invasion of the Donbass invasion, by portraying Donbass rebels as mass murderers.
      Politkovskaya: Promotes the continuation of America-backed Salafist wars in Chechnya-Dagestan.
      Skripal: Needed excuse for sanctions, also something to do with Syria.
      Navalny: More sanctions, and stop North Stream.

      The list goes on… there is always some geopolitical crisis which NEEDS somebody to be poisoned or shot at just the right time, cui bono, it’s something every Prosecutor would ask, you know the thing…

      Only the very gullible just listen to CNN hysterics and sagely nod their heads…


      1. I find it difficult to put these things in the same category.

        Politkovskaya was murdered by some Chechens due to her probing. Putin/Kremlin had nothing to do with it, but the West obviously didn’t miss the opportunity.

        Litvinenko and Skripal are both shady spy affairs with so many bizarre details and inconsistencies that I doubt *any* of the parties are telling the truth. In both cases, both the MI6 (and CIA by extension) and GRU were evidently involved in some way, but exactly how is impossible to say. At any rate, they were both curiously convenient events for the former party.

        Without any tangible evidence to back it up at this point, I still think that the Russians sent people there for the purpose of extracting information or so, and that the MI6 knew about this and set them up by having the subjects killed in conjunction with it. It’s the only thing that makes any shred of sense to me.

        Russia would obviously deny having sent agents there, regardless of their purpose, so it’s a near-foolproof way of stirring up some geopolitical drama for the people who thrive in it.

        I’m of the opinion that MH17 was a massive cockup by the rebels, but it was all clearly enabled by Ukraine, who obviously knew that there were potent AA assets in the area (the frequency of Ukrainian planes/helicopters being shot down was just increasing at the time, as were the altitudes on which this was occuring), and Ukraine is clearly hiding a lot of information about this. They have forged phonecalls, inexplicably “turned off their radars that particular day”, lied about the extent of their military operations there etc. Russia has lied about the extent of military aid given to the Republics, even when confronted with irrefutable proof of this, etc…

        But it was also very convenient, as you say.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Excellent points, Drutten.
        Another factor to take into account is “selective reporting to create a pattern”. For example, there is this whole string of alleged Russian misdeeds, some of which maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but the overall impression is created of a rogue nation completely out of control and a danger to all civilized peoples. With Margaret Dumont clutching her pearls: “Well, I never…!”

        Meanwhile, for every single one of these alleged Russian misdeeds, America alone (not to mention England) probably did 100 even worse things, but they don’t always blow up in the headlines.

        Pro-Russian propagandists should start matching things up more evenly: If a Litvinenko happens, then find a corresponding this to blow steam about. Tit-for-tat one for one. To paint a portrait of a completely out-of-control rogue West that commits horrific crimes against humanity every single day. (Which they do, actually, so shouldn’t be that hard to find grist for the mill.)


    2. Please, give me the facts that have convinced you that the Russian government is responsible for the poisoning of Skripal and Navalny?

      Before Skripal and Navalny, there was Litvienko. Remember?

      Before, there may have been others. … on both sides, …? To not go into the basics surrounding secrecy and thus necessarily rumors. …

      You will find a multitude of skeptics on the ground, but they aren’t the ones that have power. -Some might fear for their status if they don’t consent. But dissenting …

      Western vs Russian dissenters?

      I am with Paul basically, mainly because it feels, notice,– don’t know, but feel it doesn’t help to dig into contradictory bits and pieces–the inquiry patterns may be set to not give Russia a real chance, But then, there they are. And they are publicized.

      It’s getting a bit more complicated around us, but still our superiors would like to know how to control the rabble in Russia just as in the US???


      1. Litvinenko, really?:

        and as to MH 17, Navalny, Skripal – I think Helmer has been done more than anyone else to debunk the NATO stories.
        And Craig Murray has voiced considerable doubt as to the veracity of NATO claims.
        (NATO is shorthand for the conglomerate of European Nations part of the US web of power projection that NATO wants to be.)


      2. The US went thru a period of the Kennedys, King, Wallace, Ken State, Chicago Dem convention beatings and jailing, as well as assorted race riots.

        Many would consider it conspiratorial to believe the US government condoned these actions.

        Concerning Russia, the same very much applies to what that bitchy ABC reporter piously brought up to Putin.

        It’s clear that Putin doesn’t shy away from tough questions. That said, he could be doing a better job in answering them. Two things might be at play. Putin isn’t always getting the best advice and/or he’s not always listening to whatever good advice is given to him, when it comes to answering blowhards like that ABC reporter.


      3. Mikael, I am more informed about US political history, popular history too, in the 20th century than you would expect from a nitwit German.

        Otherwise, from a meta-perspective, I am leaning towards Anatoly’s response below. I’ve watched Chinaphobia/the Yellow Threat of old, in conspiracy minded circles in the early 21st century. China possibly was already approaching Mexican/US borders. When was that? … 2005/6???… No joke. …

        About a decade later, all the talk in polite circles seemed to be about a strategy to prevent a political alignment between Russia and China.


      4. Moon,

        He’s not in the US, where i assure you there’s a strong knee jerk anti-Russian sentiment that isn’t simply going to lose clout soon.

        Consider how a certain poop satin is treated, getting high profile media appearances and no establishment condemnation for promoting bigoted hatred as defined/applied towards some other groups;

        At the same time, it’s not practical for the US to be so anti-Russian.


  7. The one thing I would add is that I don’t think it’s any longer possible to discuss US – Russia relations without mentioning the elephant in the room (China). US foreign policy towards Russia is now clearly driven by the prerogative of averting a Sino-Russian alliance; unlike Russia, China is a real threat to US hegemony and one that becomes much more serious with access to Russian resources and intelligence (e.g. in the event of a conflict over Taiwan).

    Liked by 2 people

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