What Biden means for Russia

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Former US Vice President and current Democratic candidate Joe Biden gestures as he delivers a statement on the results of talks with his Ukrainian president in Kiev on December 7, 2015.SERGEY SUPINSKI | AFP | Getty Images

Despite harsh sanctions and even harsher criticism, Russia has not exceeded U.S. foreign policy priorities under President Donald Trump, who appears to have a pleasant relationship with his counterpart Vladimir Putin.However, all that could change if Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins the Nov. 3 election, according to experts, who are assessing the implications of a Biden presidency on US-Russian relations.

At the very least, analysts expect a Biden victory would increase tensions between Washington and Moscow and increase the likelihood of further sanctions against Russia.

The country is already operating under international sanctions against some key sectors and Russian officials close to Putin, for actions such as his annexation of Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, interference in the US elections in 2016 and his involvement in a nerve agent attack in the UK in 2018.

Mutual distrust

Andrius Tursa, adviser for Central and Eastern Europe at Teneo Intelligence, said that a Biden victory would improve transatlantic ties between the United States and Europe and would see “a renewed commitment by the United States to NATO. Which would be well received by Europe.

However, he also said such an outcome would mean “mostly inconvenience to Russia,” citing a recent history of mutual mistrust and acrimonious relations between the Kremlin and US Democrats.

“In general, a potential Biden presidency would be negative for Moscow and would likely lead to a further deterioration of bilateral relations, both rhetorically and substantively. The Democratic Party candidate has long maintained a firm stance towards the administration of President Vladimir Putin, ”Tursa said in a note on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) on the first day of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019.

Agence Anadolu | Agence Anadolu | Getty Images

“The Kremlin’s contempt for Biden, meanwhile, dates back to his vice-presidency, particularly his demand for sanctions against Russia in response to the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.”

A meaningful resolution of the conflict over Crimea and in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine (where there are two pro-Russian regions that have declared themselves republics) still eludes Moscow and Kiev, despite efforts by Germany and France to negotiate a lasting settlement that both sides can live with.

Tursa argued that without a tangible process of resolving the conflicts in Donbass and Crimea – a region in which Biden was heavily involved as vice president – “Moscow could hardly expect a significant easing of sanctions” and that a potential Biden presidency could lead to stricter enforcement of existing measures.

The risk of further sanctions could also increase, he said, given allegations of Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election.

Mutual benefit

Further sanctions against Russia are unlikely to be imposed immediately, however, according to Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management.

He said on Saturday that “although I think the course of US-Russian relations will remain on this deteriorating course, I am not sure that we should expect an immediate deployment of additional” pent-up “sanctions” against Russia.

“I think the candidates who are likely to run Russian affairs in a Biden presidency are all quite experienced and level-headed. They will not want to apply sanctions for sanctions. They will want to have a very proportionate and logical approach, ”he said, stressing that it is“ important for the United States to have a trade relationship with Russia to ensure the realization of the strategic interests of the United States ” .

He said the two sides, under a Biden presidency, should “learn where they can tolerate and get along in certain areas of mutual interest – like arms control – and reduce the potential for conflict where strategic interests overlap. compete, for example in regions like Ukraine, even Belarus and Turkey. Sanctions will be part of the toolbox, but only one of those tools. ”

New start

Arms control is an area which, according to the two Russian observers, could be a point of mutual interest and a certain harmony. Biden pointed this out, saying in 2019 that he would like to see an extension of the main US-Russian nuclear weapons reduction treaty, known as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or the implementation of something. similar.

“Based on recent statements from both sides, negotiations on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) are an area where progress could be expected if Biden is elected,” Tursa de Teneo said. “However, the timing would be extremely difficult as the current treaty expires on February 5, 2021.”

Russia itself has recognized that arms control could be a positive dynamic under a Biden presidency. Earlier in October, Putin criticized what he called Biden’s “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric”, but also said he was encouraged by Biden’s comments regarding a new arms treaty or the extension of the new START.

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