18:07 GMT +317 October 2019
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    Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama react after a heckler is removed from the East Room of the White House.

    Biden's Confusing Advice: US Should Work With and Against Russia Simultaneously

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    Vice President Joe Biden has offered his sage advice for the next president on how to conduct relations with Moscow. In his essay, published by Foreign Affairs, the vice president suggested that the next president should combine "deterrence" and "tactical cooperation." Naturally, Russian analysts have something to say about Biden's recommendations.

    In his essay, which offers recommendations on how the Washington might try and maintain its global hegemonic status, the vice president warned that "in nearly every part of the world, the United States contends with regional powers that have an enormous capacity to contribute to the international order – or to undermine it." Accordingly, he added, "much will rest on how America chooses to lead."

    Specifically as far as Russia is concerned, Biden wrote that the US must "continue to pursue a policy that combines the urgent need for deterrence, on the one hand, with the prudent pursuit of cooperation and strategic stability, on the other."

    Reconstituting the US claim that Crimea's vote to rejoin Russia was actually an 'illegal annexation' by Moscow, and accusing Russia of "continued aggression in eastern Ukraine," Biden argued that these actions "violate foundational principles of the post-Cold War order: sovereignty and the inviolability of borders in Europe."  Accordingly, he noted, "we have rallied our allies in Europe and elsewhere to impose real costs on Moscow, making clear that this pressure will continue until Russia upholds its commitments under the agreements reached in Minsk aimed at ending the conflict."

    Specifically, the vice president pointed to the Obama administration's move to quadruple US defense spending in Europe, and its efforts to strengthen NATO on the ground, including through the deployment of forces and equipment to Poland and the Baltic countries. "The next administration should redouble the United States' commitment to strengthening NATO and our partnership with the EU," Biden insisted.

    Effectively trying to have his cake and eat it too, Biden also suggested that "investing in the core institutions of the West does not require reverting back to simplistic Cold War thinking. The United States should remain open to cooperation with Russia where our interests overlap, as we demonstrated with the Iran nuclear deal, as well as with the New START agreement on nuclear weapons. It is also difficult to envision how the war in Syria will ultimately end without some modus vivendi between Washington and Moscow."

    Factually, the vice president's piece for Foreign Affairs was a continuation of concepts he laid out earlier. In June, Biden said that the US and Russia should avoid a new Cold War, adding that Washington would "have to continue cooperating with Russia where our interests overlap."

    Commenting on Biden's essay for Foreign Affairs, Russian political analysts speaking to the independent online newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa noted that it's very difficult to speak of walk the line of cooperating with a country that's trying to force you to play by their rules.

    Pointing out that "the consolidated interest of the US political establishment is to prevent Russia from returning to the world stage as a great power," Political scientist Sergei Markov told the online paper that the policy would continue to be applied in theory, even though it has been a complete disaster in practice. 

    Factually, Markov argued, this strategy has led to a "monstrous war crime – to the destruction of security in Europe" in the form of the political crisis and civil war in Ukraine. "This was a very high price to pay for the US to try to reach its goal." Effectively, the analyst suggested, in "trying to implement the policy of containment, the US largely destroyed its own image. Today, everyone knows that the coup in Ukraine was carried out with the support of US intelligence."

    What's more, while policy in Ukraine may have had positive short-term benefits for the US, "Washington has factually discredited itself as a democratic force in the entire post-Soviet space." 

    And there is another major negative side effect, the analyst noted. "America's strategic interest is to have strong pro-Western and pro-American forces inside Russia. However, through their clumsy policy, the US has assured a colossal defeat for these forces. Now any politician in Russia who says that he has a good opinion of the US is immediately pinned as a political outcast," with virtually no support among the population and no prospects for being elected.

    Markov noted that he considers Vice President Biden personally responsible for implementing the failed US policy on Russia, "which has dealt such a severe blow to US national interests. The US crossed a line in Europe which had not been crossed since the time of the crisis in Yugoslavia. They unleased a bloodbath in Donbass, liquidated freedom of speech in Ukraine, and moved Kiev to engage in a policy of state terror against the opposition."

    Factually, the political observer noted, contrary to Biden's advice, "this is a legacy what the next US administration will have to abandon. The US, I will repeat, is interested in seeing significant forces within Russian society and among the Russian elite which are oriented toward America. By following the course it's on now, it will be impossible for the US to achieve this strategic goal."

    Commenting on the state of the US presidential race, Markov suggested that while many observers have said that Republican candidate Donald Trump is 'unpredictable', in fact, "the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, is even more unpredictable, due to her propensity for reckless adventurism. Her policy in Libya, it's worth recalling, ended with the murder of the US ambassador. Meanwhile, her support for the jihadists in Syria to overthrow Bashar Assad has no rational explanation at all."

    Ultimately, Markov noted, "America today is oscillating between the ideology of globalism, expressed by Hillary Clinton, and the ideology of 'Americanism'…proposed by Trump. No one can predict which of these ideologies America will choose, but it's a circumstance that worries many countries," Russia included.

    For his part, Expert magazine correspondent Gevorg Mirzayan told Svobodnaya Pressa that Biden's 'dual track' strategy is actually logical, from the point of view of US interests. "The problem is that the Obama administration has never actually pursued it. Yes, we've had sporadic cooperation with the Americans in recent years, but we haven't been able to build a dialogue on the issues that present a common interest – such as Syria. We could not establish cooperation, because there is very little trust between Moscow and Washington. And cooperation without trust cannot exist."

    "As far as the policy of containment is concerned, the US, from the American point of view, is obliged to contain Russia. But this containment must be moderate, fair. Containing Russia means not allowing it to undermine US interests in Europe, or to break the transatlantic link. However, when it starts meaning trying to prohibit Russia from having a sphere of influence, or trying to knock Russia out of Ukraine" (in the political sense), "this leads to tough actions by Moscow in response, since this kind of deterrence is both unfair and excessive," in Russia's point of view.

    Finally, Moscow Institute of International Security Problems senior researcher Alexei Fenenko suggested that Biden's proposals are nothing more than a rehash of a foreign policy approach developed under the first Clinton administration.

    That policy has four points, the expert noted. The first is that the US was not able to reach its main objective at the conclusion of the Cold War – the dismantling of Soviet military capabilities, which were passed on to Russia. "This meant that Russia remained the only country in the world technically capable of destroying the US, and of fighting the US using conventional weapons."

    "The second point is that deterrence, especially in nuclear terms, remains the essence of Russian-US relations," as it was during the Cold War. "Third is the idea that it is necessary to pushed forward-deployed systems as far as possible to the east, up to the Russian borders, using the territories of the former socialist countries to do so. Fourth is taking the countries neighboring Russia, such as Ukraine and the Baltics, under control, which is meant to guarantee the inviolability of the world order established in 1991."

    Effectively, Fenenko suggested, "everything that Washington thinks and says about Russia is a variation of the Clinton administration's views of the fall of 1993. In my view, the next US administration will not come up with anything new."


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