8 Jun 2021 11:51

Primakov Readings: Russia-U.S. relations at their lowest since Cold War ended - presidential aide Ushakov

MOSCOW. June 9 (Interfax) - Russia-U.S. relations are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War era, and thus, things need to change to the benefit of both countries and the world at large, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said at the Primakov Readings forum on June 8.

It would be logical to pay attention to Russia-U.S. relations ahead of the bilateral summit due to take place in Geneva on June 16, Ushakov said.

"Everyone knows that interaction between these two countries seems to be at its lowest since the end of the Cold War era. Clearly, something needs to be done about that, considering that this creates real risks, not only for these two big countries, but also for the entire world," he said.

The global situation is becoming more complicated, Ushakov said. "As the president [Vladimir Putin] has pointed out, the global security system is becoming less predictable, it is degrading, and the potential for conflict is growing in general," Ushakov said, adding that new local hotbeds of tension are emerging against the backdrop of numerous unsettled regional crises.

"Clearly, the way relations are developing between the East and the West is a source of particular concern. The notorious sanctions keep spiraling, they are causing obstructions and very seriously obstructing the establishment of normal relations, and they aren't good for global stability as a whole," he said.

Russia, China forging closer ties

Washington's policy of the so-called dual containment of Russia and China will not give the Unites States any advantages over these two global players, director of the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Feodor Voitolovsky said.

"In my opinion, the U.S., having chosen a strategy of the dual containment of Russia and China, made a systemic mistake that will be fraught with long-running historical consequences: political, military-political, and economic. Thus, the U.S. facilitated the prospect of Russia and China forging even closer political and maybe military-political relations," Voitolovsky said at the Primakov Readings forum in Moscow on Tuesday.

It will be interesting to see the limit of the closeness of the relations between Moscow and Beijing in the foreseeable future, Voitolovsky said. This limit largely depends on China's choice of development strategy, on what development strategy Russia chooses, and on how these two countries continue building relations, he said.

"For instance, China seeks to preserve relations of codependency with the United States," Voitolovsky said.

Putin on cooperation in response to pandemic

The containment of the coronavirus pandemic requires global effort and equal cooperation, yet numerous countries appear to be unprepared to do this, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

"Clearly, the number of challenges continues to grow, and many of them constitute a real threat to international stability, safe living, and the wellbeing of people in all parts of the world. The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 3.5 million people worldwide, has added to such challenges as the degrading arms control mechanisms, the activity of terrorist networks, the rising cybercrime rate, and the escalation of regional conflicts," Putin said in a statement read out by presidential aide Yury Ushakov at the Primakov Readings forum.

Severe social and economic consequences of the pandemic are now visible everywhere, Putin said. "The containment of such a dangerous infection requires a global effort and fair and equal cooperation. Regretfully, far from everyone appears to be ready to do this," he said.

"Although it would be premature to declare victory over coronavirus, it is important to start thinking about the lessons to be learned from this ordeal and to consider the actions to be taken in the event of similar situations in the future," Putin said.

Putin expressed hope that these and other pressing matters will be scrutinized at the forum.

It takes two to tango

Moscow is interested in a positive outcome of the approaching Russia-U.S. summit but "it takes two to tango," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"The work is continuing, and the wait is not long. I believe everything will be clear soon; we will be interested in positive results of the summit but, as they say, it takes two to tango. Perhaps, things may be more difficult if someone prefers breakdance," Lavrov said at the Primakov Readings forum on June 9 in response to a question about expectations from the Russia-U.S. summit.

There is no strict summit agenda coordinated on paper, unlike what happened in Russia-EU relations in the past, Lavrov said. "We had no such thing with the Americans; we simply mentioned the issues both sides were planning to touch upon. This is how we are doing it this time as well," he said.

Resets in relations with Washington are now a thing of the past, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday.

"The times of all sorts of resets are in the past. Personally, I don't believe in any resets going forward. And we'll be better off not even delving into this kind of terminology, but instead getting down to the minutiae of affairs, the minutiae of small steps, from which, I hope, some greater trust in one another will nevertheless grow, and, maybe, a change for the better in Russia's perception of the U.S. and the U.S. of Russia will begin," Ryabkov said during the Primakov Readings on Wednesday.

Agreement between the two countries can "only be possible if they genuinely search for some kind of a balance of interests, which is a huge problem," he said.

Russia will do its utmost to prevent relations with the United States from getting worse, Sergei Ryabkov said.

"I don't rule out further souring. We will make the maximum effort to stop that from happening, because the risks are serious, and crisis management in our relationship remains on the agenda," Ryabkov said.

The two countries are closely cooperating on preventing dangerous incidents and dangerous military activity, he said.

"When talking about a new security equation, we factor in new technologies, as well. We have formed an impressive topical agenda with the United States, we will be refining it, and it is important for us to be heard, because there have been certain problems with this, too," Ryabkov said.

Russia calls on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to take a "responsible and energetic" approach toward the process of normalizing relations between Russia and the United States and hopes that the upcoming meeting of the two countries' leaders will provide answers to a large number of questions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said.

"A meeting of the presidents of Russia and the U.S. will take place in Geneva in a week. Very serious expectations surround it. This is truly a crucial event on the international calendar, and, as we hope, this event will offer answers to a large number of questions," Ryabkov said at the Primakov Readings forum.

"I don't have any answer of my own whether after this contact between the leaders it will be possible to ensure a lasting trend toward resolving problems, toward normalizing our relations. But this is the objective of the Russian side," he said.

"This is the essence of the tasks that we are trying to solve at this stage," Ryabkov said.

"And we call on Biden's administration to engage in this process as responsibly and energetically as us," he said.

"We ought to understand that the movement of time in the modern-day stage of the development of international relations is much faster than anything we are accustomed to. It's no longer possible to continue working in the coordinate system we have been working in for years," Ryabkov said.

Arms control and strategic stability

The Russian Foreign Ministry will make every effort in contacts with its colleagues from the United States to ensure a positive outcome for the upcoming Russian-U.S. summit, and in particular, creating a framework for further work with the U.S. side in the sector of strategic stability could be a serious achievement of the summit, Sergei Ryabkov said.

"If it is possible to create a framework for further work on arms control, I believe that will already be a certain achievement," Ryabkov told journalists following a panel on Russian-U.S. relations as part of the Primakov Readings.

"There are still seven days left until the summit, and we, on our level at the Foreign Ministry, will make every effort in our contacts with the U.S. side to increase the summit's chances for a positive outcome and create the optimal setting for the leaders, so that they can agree on arms control and, probably, on some other issues," he said.

Speaking on "whether there is a chance that a confrontation in relations between Russia and the U.S. can be avoided" and issues which "have been growing and overlapping on top of one another recently" can be overcome, Ryabkov said he is convinced that "this will be possible if the U.S side has the political will."

"Our side hasn't just the will, but a firm determination to use all chances to ensure the steady progress of bilateral relations," he said.

The upcoming summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva may mark the beginning of a revival of the dialogue on strategic stability, Sergei Rogov, scientific director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said.

"As for the prospects of the summit, I believe one can express a careful hope that it will be possible to achieve a reduction in the tensions that exist in the relations between our countries, in the military sector first. These tensions are linked to our devolving into a new arms race without rules, excluding the extension of New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty]," Rogov said during a panel at the Primakov Readings in Moscow on Wednesday.

One of Biden's motivations to meet with Putin is concerns about Moscow's rapprochement with Beijing, he said.

"The United States clearly does not want to allow the formation of a Russian-Chinese alliance against the U.S. I believe this is the main reason why Biden decided to go for a summit with Putin. There is cautious optimism, because Biden's administration has reinstated the term 'strategic stability,' which was abandoned by the [Donald] Trump administration," Rogov said.

One should not expect that any agreements will be signed directly at the summit itself, he said.

"One can hardly expect that a breakthrough will be achieved at the summit and specific agreements on these issues will be signed. Nevertheless, the two president may agree that talks on a wide array of issues must begin," Rogov said.

Overall, in any event, the confrontational nature of relations between Moscow and Washington, D.C. may last for many years, he said.

"The U.S. and Russia have been in a state of a 'New Cold War' for over seven years now. It is different from the previous Cold War. But there are similarities. Unfortunately, there aren't prospects for the 'New Cold War' ending in the near future. It cannot be ruled out that it may last many years, perhaps even decades. It involves both geopolitical competition and economic sanctions against Russia," Rogov said.

Putin and Biden will meet in Geneva on June 16.

The 7th Primakov Readings, an international scientific and expert forum named in honor of the academician and statesman Yevgeny Primakov, is takin place at Moscow's World Trade Center on June 8-9, 2021. The forum is held in a hybrid format, with video link-up with those experts and diplomats unable to attend in person due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The forum's main topic is 'Emerging World Order: New Challenges.' 

The forum’s organizer is the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences and its partners. In 2021, the project's partners are the Presidential Grants Foundation, the Primakov Center for International Cooperation, the World Trade Center and the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Interfax is its information partner.

For more information visit primakovreadings.com/en/primakovreadings-2021.

The previous sessions of the Primakov Readings were held in June and July 2020:

"U.S. can't afford to contain both Russia and China - experts,"
"TAPI's future to remain hostage of politics for long time - experts,"
"Cancellation of EU restrictions against Russia unlikely in near future - Russian diplomat,"
"Russia to remain negative factor in U.S. domestic politics - Deputy FM Ryabkov,"
"EastMed gas pipeline has neither economic nor political grounds - experts,"
"Russia able to ensure its security if New START Treaty isn't extended - Lavrov."