Moscow’s response to the “mental war” that the Biden administration is waging against Russia appears at first glance to be contradictory. Diplomats and parliamentarians warn against sliding into the abyss and call for the restoration of contacts, while the Defense Ministry is very tough on overseas “partners”. In fact, as noted by international experts, Moscow has already drawn the necessary conclusions about relations with the United States.
On Friday, Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting of the Russian Security Council. The main report at the meeting will be made by the secretary of this structure Nikolai Patrushev. The meeting at the Security Council site will take place against the backdrop of an obvious aggravation of the already confrontational relations between Washington and Moscow.
On Friday morning, the White House informed on the results of the session of the European Council, in which Joe Biden took part, that the US President told the European allies about his intention to “work together on Russia and China.” It can be assumed what kind of work is meant – earlier Biden announced his intention to hold China “accountable” together with allies, and was also worried about Russia’s actions.
On the other hand, it should be noted that at the first press conference as president, Biden refrained from attacks on Putin. This time, the speeches of the US President did not sound anything like what he allowed himself in a scandalous interview – which caused an exchange of harsh statements between Washington and Moscow and, apparently, became the reason for the recall of the Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov for consultations.
The fact that the policy of the Biden administration in the Russian direction has not yet settled down and is characterized by ambiguity can be judged from the publication of the Financial Times. According to the newspaper, in the new White House team, two groups are fighting with different visions about attitudes towards Moscow in general and the sanctions attacks in particular. The hard-line is Victoria Nuland, the former curator of color revolutions during the Barack Obama era, who is now nominated for the post of Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for political affairs. She is opposed by pragmatists from the State Department and the Ministry of Finance, who call for calculating the possible negative effect of the sanctions.
On the other hand, in recent days, signals have been coming from Moscow that can also be interpreted – in American political science terms – as “a game of good and bad cops.” On Thursday, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov, summoned to Moscow for consultations, said that Moscow and Washington have no time to quarrel. “We need to do concrete things, fight common challenges and threats, and we, unfortunately, have a lot of them,” Antonov said following a meeting of the State Duma’s international affairs committee. The State Duma, following a conversation with Antonov, also noted that Moscow is not a supporter of the irreversible degradation of the dialogue with Washington. “Relations between the two leading nuclear powers have no right to finally slide into the abyss,” stressed Leonid Slutsky, head of the relevant committee.
At the same time, almost simultaneously, the Ministry of Defense announced the “mental war” that Washington launched against the Russian Federation while avoiding a direct armed conflict. This idea was expressed by the Adviser to the Minister of Defense Andrei Ilnitsky. “If in classical wars the goal is to destroy the enemy’s manpower, in modern cyberwar to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure, then the goal of a new war is to destroy self-consciousness, change the mental – civilizational – basis of the enemy’s society,” said a senior defense official.
The Kremlin also supported the statement of the adviser Sergei Shoigu, pointing to the “purposeful line to contain and suppress Russia, which is being pursued by the United States and its partners.” In addition, the presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov called Washington’s line of conduct a “soft power” policy, which pursues non-trivially tough goals. “Of course, this is what is called soft power. She sets herself rather non-trivial, tough goals. This is obvious, ”said Peskov.
However, it would be wrong to look for any contradictions between the “hawks” and the peacekeepers in Moscow’s line of behavior, believes Andrei Kortunov, international expert and general director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). “Each department has its own tasks. One way or another, a person in the post of an ambassador should consider establishing a dialogue as his main priority. Therefore, ambassadors usually strive to find the smallest, but still opportunities for improving relations, ”the source said.
“And for the Ministry of Defense, the main thing is to ensure security,” Kortunov continued. “Therefore, they focus on slightly different aspects of our relations with other countries, and often their statements sound harsher.”
“The determinant of the temperature of our foreign policy relations can be considered the statements of the President of Russia. It is he who must find a common denominator.
In Putin’s latest statements, there is no sign of escalation. Even to the statement of American leader Joe Biden, our president responded condescendingly, did not get involved in polemics.
He tried to reduce everything to a joke, ”stated the RIAC CEO. Consequently, Kortunov concludes, if you draw some general line of Moscow’s policy in the American direction, then the mood here is more conciliatory than militant. “Although a lot can change. Everything depends on many circumstances, including the further steps of our American partners, ”the expert added.
Fyodor Lukyanov, Director for Research at the Valdai International Club, adheres to a similar position. He believes that Russia is not taking a course of confrontation with the United States, but it is clearly too early to talk about reconciliation. “What is Russia’s reaction to the recent statements from Washington? Apparently, it was decided that in sight she should be condescending. Does this reflect a real attitude? I’m not at all sure about this, – says the international expert. “Whether there will be a tough answer is also optional.” So far, according to Lukyanov, Moscow is “on all courses at the same time.”
Two different statements in relation to Russian-American relations are not the reception of a “good and evil policeman”, but an adjustment of Moscow’s rhetoric in the new realities of the behavior of Biden’s team, American political scientist Dmitry Drobnitsky told the TOPNEWS newspaper. It would seem that experienced diplomats in the US administration – Biden himself, and National Security Assistant Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and former Secretary of State John Kerry – will act according to the laws of diplomacy, and they break all unwritten rules. But here, it seems to me, an important strategic point was not taken into account: the new administration needs to win on all fronts in two years – both domestically and internationally. The administration has many goals – they are in a hurry and therefore do not bother with decency, ”the interlocutor suggested.
The Americanist stressed that this can be seen both from the way Blinken behaved at the meeting with the Chinese and from what Biden said about our president. “It can be seen that they do not have time for diplomacy, that there will be no more diplomacy in the usual sense,” Drobnitsky added. The only way for Russia to react to their actions can be only one – the acceleration of sovereign development, the expert is sure. “All actions of the West against Russia are aimed at stopping sovereign development. Everything else is secondary tasks. The same is true for China, but they believe that the tasks for Russia are simpler. Therefore, they will, of course, put more pressure on us, ”the Americanist suggested.
“According to the statements of President Putin, it is clear that he has already figured out everything and made the necessary hints. In the future, we will observe precisely the “adjustment of rhetoric” of Moscow in the new realities of the behavior of the Biden team. There will be no “policy adjustment”. It could be if we were met halfway. Given the importance of the tasks, it is clear that rhetoric is not the most important thing in this case. The main thing is that politically everything should be done correctly, ”Drobnitsky summed up.