The thorny road to the Kremlin’s desired Yalta-2021

Author : Pavel Felgenhauer

Source : Jamestown

It has long been Moscow’s goal to put together some kind of new Yalta agreement or a “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact 2.0” to carve up Eurasia, including Ukraine

Russian top officials—in particular, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (RIA Novosti, April 27) and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (Kommersant, April 8)—have for weeks been talking about the deepening crisis in Russia’s relations with the United States while at the same time expressing some hope that an improvement could still happen. Both Patrushev and Lavrov imply Russo-US relations are as bad as during the Cold War, though with less predictability or mutual respect. Still the two men insist there are no major ideological differences today, since Russia is not trying to destroy the Western way of life by spreading some form of Communism. This apparently implies the present confrontation is superficial and could perhaps be resolved if Washington and its allies curtail their aggressive stance against Moscow as well as recognize Russia’s “legitimate” national security and sovereign rights, including the right to defend Russian-speakers wherever they live. If the US and its cohorts do not stand down, the situation “could get worse than a Cold War,” according to Lavrov (RIA Novosti, April 27)—i.e., go from “cold” to “hot.”

In turn, Western leaders, including US President Joseph Biden and his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, have been talking about stabilizing relations with Russia. While insisting Moscow must pay a price for its “bad behavior”—alleged cyberattacks, election interference, human rights violations, aggressive actions in Ukraine and so on—the West has expressed the desire to work with the Kremlin on subjects of mutual interest, like nuclear arms control, fighting Islamist terrorism, controlling the pandemic, tackling global climate change and so on. In Washington, many believe China, with its growing economy already almost equal to the US, is potentially a much more formidable foe than the stagnating, oil and natural gas–exporting Russia with its limited financial and industrial resources. Top US officials are working with the Kremlin on fixing a date and place for a possible Biden–Vladimir Putin summit, sometime in June 2021 and somewhere in Europe (Interfax, May 6). The negotiations have turned out to be complicated. Moscow has indicated “interest” but has not yet fully committed to the meeting. Still, there is hope such a summit could defuse growing tensions or at least postpone (if not prevent) a major outbreak of fighting with Ukraine. As the summit is being prepared, the Western powers hope Russian forces gathered on the Ukrainian border may eventually withdraw.

Tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats between Moscow and the West, along with Russia’s recent restrictions preventing “unfriendly nations” like the US from hiring locals to help run their embassies in Moscow, have left diplomatic relations in tatters. The US embassy stopped issuing non-immigrant visas to Russians in Moscow, and its effectiveness as a representative of the US government has been diminished. Lavrov said he offered Blinken the “zero option”—to reverse all restrictions imposed by both sides since 2016, including the seizure by the US authorities of Russian diplomatic country residences close to New York and Washington (RIA Novosti, April 27).

Apparently, Moscow’s overall idea of mending fences is a grand “zero option”—returning to things as they were before 2014. The Kremlin expects the West to end all sanctions or at least most of them. Russia, in turn, would lift its anti-Western restrictions, while at the same time keeping Crimea and a foothold in Donbas. Seasoned and decorated Russian (Soviet) diplomat Grigory Karasin (71) was for, many years, a state secretary and deputy foreign minister. In 2019, Karasin was moved from the foreign ministry to the Federation Council (upper chamber of the Russian parliament)—appointed senator representing Sakhalin Oblast, while continuing to work to keep open an unofficial channel of negotiations with Tbilisi. In March 2021, Karasin was elevated to chair the Federation Council’s Foreign Relations Committee. In an interview after his promotion, Karasin expressed the need for Russia and the West to negotiate a new Yalta-style accord—like the 1945 summit between Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, who together de facto carved up Eurasia into spheres of interest at the end of World War II. According to Karasin, Yalta-1945 provided stability and predictability to generations of mankind, “though it was criticized.” A new “Yalta-2021,” could do the same and prevent another world war. Putin is promoting that idea by proposing a special summit of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, according to Karasin (Kommersant, April 12).

It has long been Moscow’s goal to put together some kind of new Yalta agreement or a “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact 2.0” to carve up Eurasia, including Ukraine (see EDM, February 26, 2015), but apparently, Karasin spelled out this political priority a bit too bluntly. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact has been significantly rehabilitated in Moscow in recent years, though it is still assessed to have been a bad deal with an untrustworthy enemy. In contrast, “Yalta” was an antifascist summit that may have bad connotations in Central and Eastern Europe, but certainly not in Moscow (Rosbalt, January 16, 2020).

Though, is the West and, in particular, the Biden administration ready to sign on to a Yalta-2021 at all? Moscow may be growing restless to secure a deal soon and has signaled it will not wait much longer for Washington to recognize the need for a geopolitical compromise. Forcing through a Yalta-style deal in 2021 would, therefore, seem obligatory. The problem with the planned Biden-Putin summit may not be the venue, but the true agenda; and for the Russian leader, it will be important to be able come to the table and talk from a position of strength. Putin has been brandishing an array of new nuclear superweapons since 2018 and claims Russia has become a “world leader in modern weapons” (see EDM, April 22). In its nation-wide mass mobilization of “over 300,000 soldiers” and of heavy weaponry in March–April, under the pretext of “battle readiness tests,” Russia sought to demonstrate its ability to fight and win a big conventional regional war with Ukraine, while ready to take on the US and its allies in a global (nuclear) conflict (Militarynews.ru, April 29). But this saber rattling seems not to have moved Washington an inch toward accepting a Yalta-2021 or Molotov-Ribbentrop 2.0 agreement.

The “dumb” Americans, as Lavrov now crudely calls them, do not understand (RIA Novosti, April 8). And the Kremlin is left wondering whether the troops still left along the Ukrainian border following their “battle readiness tests” might need to demonstrate their capabilities in real combat for the upcoming summit with Biden to be a success. Though if Russia further invades Ukraine, would Biden be willing to meet Putin at all?

(c) The Jamestown Foundation

24 comments

  • “Apparently, Moscow’s overall idea of mending fences is a grand “zero option”—returning to things as they were before 2014. The Kremlin expects the West to end all sanctions or at least most of them. Russia, in turn, would lift its anti-Western restrictions, while at the same time keeping Crimea and a foothold in Donbas.”

    The US have run out of reset buttons Lavrov, now you pay the penalty for your worldwide terrorism. This is not 1945, the West have moved on into the 21st century, it’s time Muscovy did the same.

    Biden doesn’t need to meet the dwarf terrorist at all, and I fail to understand why he would want to. Muscovy only create problems, then graciously offer to fix them, usually by invading with peacekeepers. I fail to see anything the US would need Russian help with, they are not going to attack terrorists they support with weapons, or dictators they support by bombing hospitals and schools. Putin has no position of strength compared to the US, and he can bang his chest all day long about his military weapons, we have seen how good they are when they come up against Western technology.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Biden’s handlers want him to negotiate with Putin on a Climate Change deal which they will violate of course. They also want Biden to negotiate on a nuclear weapons deal which they will also violate. In return Biden will allow Putin to do what he wants in his “sphere of influence” which will include everything from the USSR. Its not even a 2014 reset but a 1990 reset and a fool’s errand. You’d think Congress could add some logic to this but if it isn’t set up as a full blown treaty then Congress isn’t needed and it will end up like the Paris Accord or the Iran deal, neither of which have any enforcement mechanisms.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Let’s have a reset to 1961, but instead of a wall across Berlin, build it across the Russian border, and send back all the Russian trash to enjoy utopia.

        Liked by 6 people

      • There is no indication that Biden is willing to sell out Ukraine to Putin.
        And even IF he did any agreement that seemed to be soft on Putin is DOA in congress.
        The Dems are foaming at the mouth to more Putin blood and the Rep will use it to label Biden a weakling.
        Right now you can do anything short of a shooting war to Putin and it is alright.
        Except look soft.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Sadly the Blinken-Zel meeting turned out to be yet another damp squib. No new initiatives, no ramping up of military support, just some crap about corruption and a bland general reaffirmation of US support for Ukraine.
      An unpopular view here, but I feel that support for an independent unitary state threatened by a huge fascist dictatorship must be UNCONDITIONAL.

      Liked by 3 people

      • onlyfactsplease

        True! There is no need for reforms when the country ends up beneath Ruskie boots anyhow. First, national security and then the rest. Although, Ukraine could have moved further in reforms during the “quiet” years between 2014 and now.

        Liked by 5 people

  • onlyfactsplease

    “The “dumb” Americans, as Lavrov now crudely calls them (us)”
    This asswipe better pray to his demon that our two countries never get into a war. I think he knows very well that he would be one of the first to get vaporized by us “dumb” Americans.

    Liked by 4 people

  • “The Kremlin expects the West to end all sanctions or at least most of them. Russia, in turn, would lift its anti-Western restrictions, while at the same time keeping Crimea and a foothold in Donbas.”
    And there is the problem.
    Russia wants everything but is has nothing to give in return.
    Not even their word which is less than zero.
    Putin was lying to Obama long before Crimea and Donbas when he promised to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons stock piles..
    All Biden want’s is to start working an agreement on arms control perhaps reestablishing the the open skies program . He may want some agreements in other areas but he not that invested in them.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.