Despite an ongoing and serious European war, curiously little has altered in Washington toward Russia and Ukraine since our mid-April note. In terms of US policy, the real news is the absence of much real news.
Category: Beltway 360
The Congress has been dithering for weeks on a variety of proposals to punish Russia and aid Ukraine, with very little to show for it. The reason is that the White House firmly took command of US policy when the war started and has demonstrated that an administration can act more quickly and more coherently than can a legislature, and this legislature in particular.
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The United States Government — with broad bipartisan support — is hunkered down for a new Cold War with Russia. This confrontation will center on but by no means be limited to Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis is playing holy hell with Joe Biden’s international agenda. Climate change, engaging Iran and containing China are all sidelined for the moment as the United States is consumed with a dispute the White House does not want and in a part of the world it would prefer to avoid.
The Kremlin has dealt Biden a poker hand on Ukraine he might prefer to fold. Ever the seeker of compromise, Biden has offered to find “accommodation” of Russian security concerns, a term already translated as “appeasement” by the President’s political opponents.
As he approaches the end of his first year in office, Joseph Biden has signaled clearly that neither Russia nor Ukraine is among his top international priorities. But he has made clear he would prefer that overall relations with Moscow should improve rather than deteriorate further. The White House will only pursue new sanctions where it must, as on cybersecurity or when Congress gives it no wiggle room.
In recent months, especially since the summit in Geneva, hopes have risen that the treadmill of sanctions applied by the US against Russia since 2014, had come to an end. However, that optimism now appears to be premature, if not completely unrealistic.
Those in Washington who feared — or hoped — the summit meeting of Biden and Putin in Geneva would be a flop were proven wrong, but the outcome of the encounter thus far is very modest with precious little on the horizon. The two sides have halted — or at least paused — the long decline in their relations, pending another crisis.