The West cannot stop Putin, but there is no substitute for Biden’s attempt to maximize limited Western influence.
The conversation between US President Biden and his Russian counterpart Putin did not result in a breakthrough, as expected: Putin repeated his demand that NATO not expand eastward and that there should be no “offensive missile systems” in neighboring countries. Biden gave the strongest possible indication of possible Western reactions to a possible new Russian military offensive against (parts of) Ukraine.
The latter is more difficult than it sounds, because there is no automatic agreement about what steps the United States and European countries can take in such a situation. The financial times mentioned About “strong talks” between Washington and Berlin about the US desire not to use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
Germany is scattered by a change of government. But Nord Stream 2 remained unnamed in the German coalition agreement for a reason, and thus remains a hot potato. It remains to be seen what the “new and more realistic” German policy toward China and Russia will mean in practice.
The direction of the European Union is also unclear. In the union, too, Berlin – with the exception of The Hague – receives scant support for Nord Stream 2, which is associated not only with a poor relationship with European energy policy, but also with the European desire to preserve Ukraine’s standing. Germany and France – the players in the moribund “Minsk peace process” with Ukraine and Russia – proposed a summit with Putin in June.
This idea quickly died, not in beauty, but in doubt. A list of new punitive measures that the EU could take against Russia has been made, but not put on the agenda. Because they, too, still lacked the means to map what is happening along the border with Ukraine, the European Union countries also had to be persuaded by Washington to increase Russian forces.
It is good that, in the absence of a recognized European policy, Biden should try to make the most of limited Western influence over decisions in the Kremlin. The West cannot give Putin what he wants – and ultimately not stop him. But Biden is well positioned to expand the strategic dialogue with Putin, in anticipation of a “geopolitical Europe,” of course, for open business.
The newspaper’s position is expressed in the Volkskrant Commentaar. It is created after a discussion between commentators and the editor-in-chief.
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