Correspondent ‘s comment The great powers are not bluffing – or are they bluffing anyway?

Negotiations between the United States and Russia ended on Monday. The parties are still far apart and are considering how seriously the counterparty’s threats should be taken, writes HS correspondent Elina Väntönen in her analysis.


Thence is almost eight years since Russia conquered the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. This was followed by a glimmer of international sanctions that had little effect.

Now Western countries are afraid to find themselves in a similar situation again. Russia has marched its troops to the Ukrainian border and is calling for an end to the expansion of the military alliance NATO. The United States and its allies are trying to figure out how to get Russia to retreat.

On Monday at this goal little progress.

It is illustrative that when the parties held separate briefings at the end of almost eight hours of negotiations, their message was very different.

The United States stressed that no one has the right to “catch NATO’s open door policy”.

Russia, for its part, said it was “very important that Ukraine could never join NATO in the future”.

So now we are waiting.

Both the parties are now thinking hard about how serious the other is.

In these situations, the old ghosts of foreign policy will haunt. As the crisis has escalated, the Syrian war and the way in which the United States failed to fulfill its threat at the time have been eroded by many, and many believe it has eroded its credibility.

The then president of the United States Barack Obama had threatened the President of Syria Bashar al-Assadia consequences if he used chemical weapons against his people. When al-Assad crossed that line in 2013, Obama did nothing.

This many have considered Obama the worst foreign policy mistake in the United States. The decision was also internally criticized by Obama’s vice president at the time Joe Biden. “The great powers are not bluffing,” he said is told said.

This has been a kind of sacred doctrine in U.S. foreign policy: if you want to be a credible superpower, you have to stick to threats. Failure to do so will lose the deterrent effect that is central.

One the big question from Russia’s point of view, then, is how serious the United States is now in threatening to have “serious consequences”.

Professor Chris Miller assesses Monday Foreign Policythat the threats posed by Biden have a problem of credibility. According to Miller, several sanctions would also have detrimental effects on Western countries, and some of them would directly affect China, further complicating setups. Furthermore, it is not clear whether European allies are really ready to take drastic action against Russia.

In the United States, it is considered, is Europe as prepared to punish Russia as the United States. The wording of the Biden administration has also been such that it is not clear what the United States would actually do and what it is just “ready” for.

Of course, the setup can also be turned around. The United States and its allies are now wondering what part of Putin’s threats is a bluff and what is not.

Good the news from Monday anyway is that the negotiations did not fail. They are scheduled to continue, although the schedule is still open.

It is also to be welcomed – even if the words are just words – that the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov assured on Monday that Russia has no plans or plans to invade Ukraine.

Instead, there were strong voices in stopping NATO enlargement. Ryabkov demanded “iron-strong, waterproof, bullet-proof, and legally binding security guarantees” that Ukraine and Georgia would “never” become members of the military alliance NATO.

But how far is Russia willing to go to get through what it wants? Is Russia’s perception of the threat of an attack just a bluff? That is still the hottest issue as discussions continue at the NATO Russia Council on Wednesday.

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