Russia and the United States Are Splitting up Eastern Europe

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Sergiu CEBAN
The presidents of Russia and the United States will try again tomorrow to defuse tension between the two countries and find mechanisms to balance their interests in different regions. The main focus is on Ukraine, but Moldova, judging by some signals, may also be “game”
After lengthy negotiations and a lot of diplomatic hints, tomorrow the leaders of the United States and Russia will finally hold bilateral talks online – via a secure video link. Recall that the previous meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin took place on June 16 in Geneva. As for the agenda, both Washington and Moscow say that it has been worked out, for which serious preparatory work has been carried out. Moreover, the final details were agreed upon at a recent meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm. It is expected that the presidents will go through the entire list of the most pressing issues of the current intense international situation, including strategic stability, the cybersphere and regional conflicts. They will also look at how the agreements reached in Switzerland are being implemented. The main focus will clearly be on the situation around Ukraine, which is now, naturally, one of the main triggers of the catastrophic deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow. It’s worth noting that the “artillery preparation” for communication between the two leaders was conducted quite intensively throughout November. The escalation around Ukraine and the active involvement of the North Atlantic Alliance in this crisis, the suspension of the Nord Stream-2 certification, the mutual expulsion of Russian and American diplomats (along with visa scandals) – altogether it looked like raising the stakes and demonstrating their capabilities, as well as the pressure points of the Kremlin and the White House. Closer to December, Moscow began to openly express its expectations from the upcoming conversation. These are, first of all, security guarantees, eliminating, among other things, any further advance of NATO to the east and the deployment of weapons systems in close proximity to Russian territory. Washington, in turn, announced the preparation of some initiatives on Ukraine designed to prevent Russian aggression against Kiev. Apparently, we are talking about another sanctions package that the United States will be ready to enforce if Moscow conducts large-scale military actions against the neighboring state. Either way, one should admit that the relations between the United States and Russia have one of the decisive influences on global stability and security. Moscow has long challenged American interests in the international arena and is trying to get an acceptable partner status from Washington. Therefore, talking about this topic from the point of view of maintaining strategic stability is a fundamental task of the upcoming talks. In the short term, it is necessary to determine ways to avoid a direct collision – which is why it is crucial to ease the tension around the Ukrainian issue. In theory, there is a way out of the current deadlock in US-Russian relations if the participants are ready to find mechanisms for balancing interests. In recent months, contacts between representatives of Russia and the United States have become significantly more frequent. Particularly noteworthy is the visit to the Russian capital by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, followed by a trip by CIA Director William Burns. Such activity can be considered as a positive trend and an intention to find at least some common factors. We must assume that they have somehow been found – otherwise, the conversation at the top level, most likely, would not have taken place this year. The very fact of Putin and Biden’s communication undoubtedly gives hope that Washington and Moscow will still be able to ease the tension. Another factor that pushes the White House to a certain “thaw” with the Kremlin is the lack of illusions about the possibility of stopping China’s growth in the foreseeable future. Therefore, tactically, the United States benefits from it in order to balance Russia’s “strategic flirtations” with China. Experts on US-Russian relations say that there are quite enough reasons for detente between the United States and the Russian Federation. However, middle grounds may be hindered by an extremely low trust level between the political elites of the two countries, as well as attempts by the American administration to speak from the position of a leader imposing a certain model of relations on the Kremlin, both on bilateral and global level. A clear evidence of this is the unwillingness of Washington and NATO to even hear about Russia’s any areas of interests. Nevertheless, Moscow stands its ground and designates strategic lines of its own interests, primarily in the post-Soviet space. It seems that in these conditions it would be nice for our authorities to understand how these “demarcation lines” go, whether our country is outside of them, whether they are drawn along the Prut or even along the Dniester. I would like to believe that Moldovan diplomacy is aware of whether Moldova appears as a separate item in the framework of the upcoming meeting or whether we are being considered in a certain general regional segment. It would seem that Chisinau has nothing to do with the meeting of Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. But the meeting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Nicu Popescu with his American counterpart on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm made many experts assume that Moldova is also “game”. As stated in the final press release, the diplomats discussed “the consolidation of Moldovan-American relations”, “exchanged views on the current situation in the Eastern European region, as well as the current state of affairs around the Transnistrian settlement”. At the same time, it is important that Nicu Popescu explicitly consolidated during his speech at the meeting of the Council of Ministers the principled positions of the new authorities concerning the desire to get rid of the foreign military presence and continue moving towards the European development of the country. Apparently, there is hope that such an approach will be supported by the American leadership and will be the starting point in further negotiations with Moscow.