Rewinding the Clock? US-Russia Relations in the Biden Era Russie.Nei.Reports, No. 36, Ifri, February 2022
The escalating crisis in Ukraine in the winter of 2021-2022 has returned US-Russia relations to center stage.
Faced with the prospect of a new Russian military intervention, US President Joe Biden has re-engaged with Vladimir Putin in a manner reminiscent of the diplomacy of the superpower era. But this latest American attempt at accommodation raises more questions than answers. In the intervening three decades the world has changed out of all recognition, the international influence of the US-Russia relationship is much diminished, and their cooperation has sunk to historic lows.
Can Washington and Moscow defy gravity and achieve some level of pragmatic engagement? There is good reason for skepticism. Neither side is truly invested in cooperation, but instrumentalizes it to other purposes. The Biden administration hopes to neutralize Russia in order to focus on the all-encompassing challenge of China. The Kremlin looks to undermine American influence as part of its project of promoting Russia as an independent global power. These goals are essentially irreconcilable. Looking ahead, the real question is not whether the United States and Russia can recalibrate their relationship to new “normal”, but whether they can avoid confrontation in an increasingly fluid and disorderly world.
Bobo Lo is an Associate Research Fellow with the Russia/NIS Center at Ifri.