Are Biden and Putin Deal Makers?

The leak yesterday onto the pages of the Spanish daily El Pais of the contents of the U.S. written response to the Russian ultimatum on a roll-back of NATO and reorganized security architecture in Europe has prompted colleagues in the peace movement to raise higher the prospects for a negotiated settlement between Russia and the Collective West without recourse to a potentially devastating war.

In an essay published today on, Ray McGovern points to the American offer allowing Russian inspectors onto the missile sites in Romania and Poland that have been a major concern of the Russians going back more than six years. On-site inspections were a major confidence-building element in the disarmament treaties reached with Russia in the Reagan years (доверяй но проверяй – trust but verify!). It would be very helpful to see them reinstated, not only for purposes of efficacy of treaty enforcement but for a generalized relaxation of tensions that they confer through regular face-to-face meetings of expert personnel from both sides. The measure would reinstate communications channels that the United States cut starting in the Obama years with intent to isolate Russia and present it as a pariah nation to the world. That has proven to be a very misguided policy which finally may be abandoned as negotiations go forward.

Independently from the latest leaks, on the Russian side Alexei Gromyko, a recognized foreign affairs expert in his country who happens to be the grandson of the Soviet Foreign Minister about whom I wrote yesterday, has just published a thorough analysis of possibilities for the United States and Russia to agree on compromise solutions to the present confrontation that satisfy the main concerns and principles of both sides as regards reduction of security threats coming from each. On the side of the West these might include imposing neutral, demilitarized status on Ukraine and parallel concessions by the Russians as regards Belarus and Kaliningrad. I heartily recommend his paper to all readers.

It bears reminding that none of these possible compromises would have seen the light of day had it not been for Russia’s currently ‘holding a gun to the head of Ukraine,’ to use Boris Johnson’s graphic image.  Only application of maximum pressure on the West focused minds in Washington and Brussels to complaints over the evolving security arrangements in Europe that Russia had been making for more than fifteen years. And this application of maximum pressure by Moscow was made possible only by its new self-confidence in its strategic parity with if not superiority over the United States and the Collective West thanks to its modernized armed forces and state of the art new strategic weapons systems that already have been partly integrated into its field units. Even the Russophobe Financial Times yesterday featured an article detailing how the Russian armed forces have been transformed in recent years. The New York Times has done similarly. We see respect replace ridicule on their pages even as regards conventional arms and without discussion of the awe inspiring new strategic weapons systems.

For those who wonder  how Biden will be able to sell any compromise with the Russians to Congress, America’s current plumage display over ‘sanctions from hell’ that may be imposed on Russia for any incursions into Ukraine, the breast beating and saber rattling, including dispatch of an additional several thousand American troops will provide some cover.  Moreover, it is almost certain that Biden will be able to claim at the end of the day that the United States did not betray its principles (ideology above all in American political discourse!) so that the door at NATO would remain open notwithstanding Russian objections.  And likely, behind closed doors, the Pentagon will explain that Russia is armed to the teeth and possibly has first strike capability in its grasp. Then, of course, there is the China Factor, about which we will learn more tomorrow at the press conference given in Beijing by Presidents Xi and Putin following their face-to-face meeting. We are told they will roll out a joint statement on what ‘the new world order will look like.’

I have used the term ‘window of opportunity’ to explain the sudden aggressiveness of the Kremlin in pursuing a revision of the European security architecture.  This concerns Russia’s present superiority in arms which may be reduced if not erased by developments on the U.S. side two or three years hence. Moreover, the defenselessness of Ukraine may also be corrected through Western technical and materiel assistance in two or three years. It concerns the electoral calendar in Russia, where Vladimir Putin’s present mandate expires in 2024. If he is to have any chance to retire, he must solve the country’s vulnerability to further NATO encroachment in the coming year or two.  For his part, Alexei Gromyko very ably discusses the window of opportunity on the American side given the prospects in the November mid-term elections and the remaining time before the 2024 U.S. presidential elections get into full swing.

None of the foregoing negotiated settlement is more than a sketch of the possible and is no more certain to be realized than the war path we have discussed till now. A mishap along the way, a stumbling into armed conflict is always possible, though with each passing day that becomes less likely as all sides size one another up and appraise the consequences of their actions.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

7 thoughts on “Are Biden and Putin Deal Makers?

  1. Again a good point, that America has actually caved on Russia’s main demands, in a practical sense. Russia was afraid of a first strike capacity of America places its soon-to-be-fielded hypersonic missiles in Romania and Poland, never mind Ukraine. Russia was also afraid of unofficial NATO bases in Ukraine. The American proposals if pursued seriously would allay those concerns. That is if the Americans are not bullshitting and don’t add poison pills, like for example no Russian personnel support to the Donbas. One issue is that official Washington has been in panic mode recently, and if the threat of a Russian invasion (as seen from Washington) fades, so will American willingness to make serious concessions.

    Also on the other hand, even an officially neutral (non-NATO aligned) Ukraine will field its own medium-range missiles in a few years. Sure they will be “regular” missiles, and in event of war Russia will be able to shoot down a lot of them, but some of them would get through. Having a strike capacity on Moscow and literally on the Kremlin itself, and being kind of crazy, it’s more likely than not that Ukraine will try to take back the Donbas by force. So what does Russia do? There seems to be no option but to nip the Ukrainian threat in the bud now. Russia could insist on Ukraine implementing the Minsk Agreements as part of a settlement, but it seems America has been pressing Ukraine on that already, and the Ukrainian government won’t budge, for the simple reason that it is not a tenable position domestically if the government wants any chance of surviving.

    So what will Russia do, or even what are its real intentions? There are so many moving parts here that for me at least it’s impossible to know.

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  2. It’s an idea, but after everything that’s happened I don’t see how they could ever trust the U.S. to honour the agreements. As soon as they thought they had the upper hand again, they would rip up the agreement and put their latest and greatest missiles there. Then Russia would be faced with the choice of start WW3 or surrender.

    Also, they idea of demilitarizing Kaliningrad has surely got to be a non-starter. It would be a sitting duck. Plus the Baltics would also have to be demilitarized, otherwise what’s to stop the U.S. putting missiles in Estonia within spitting distance of St. Petersburg?

    The real problem is that these stunts never cost the U.S. anything. As long as the dollar is world reserve currency, they effectively have infinite spending power, so there are few ways to penalize them other than direct military action, which is very risky. So even if they fail, they can keep trying over and over again and the law of averages says they will get their way eventually.


    1. No one ever thought the polar ice caps would be shedding at the rate they are either.

      Tipping points never have nor will ever be ‘discipline specific’.


  3. The US is categorically, unabashedly and definitively ‘nedogovorsposobniy’. It’s likely the result of being a ‘model of democracy for the world to emulate’ in that one president’s agreements have no bearing on the next president’s actions, and that’s the way Washington likes it.

    Time to call a spade a spade, tell it to shove it and dispense with the flourishes.


  4. I don’t think Alexei Gromyko is close to the Kremlin decision-making. I have still not seen anything from Moscow that would counter the obvious intent of wanting the December draft treaties being rebuffed by the US and NATO. Putin understands that even if he received “written legal guarantees” from the US they would guarantee nothing, the same way Obama’s signing of the Paris emissions treaty or the 5P+1 deal with Iran meant nothing for the incoming administration. IMHO, the diplomatic initiatives were and continue to be simply formalities to manage the timeline for Putin’s to implement the “military-technical” means to obtain Russia’s security requirements.


  5. <>

    Nope — Russia will keep its lead and it’s a real question today whether the US can make weapons that work. What we see today are fabulously expensive cost-overrun machines like the F35, USS Ford, Zumwalts and the like. They don’t work but they sure cost money. US generals today are future VP Sales for the MIC. Russia still makes weapons to fight wars.

    What happened is that the USA did nothing for 20-25 years resting on its laurels and bombing safely from great heights. Its ground operations were restricted to kicking in doors in the middle of the night and patrolling roads hoping there would be no IEDs. Meanwhile Russia worked hard to develop and add to all sorts of ideas dormant in the Soviet days.

    This is a big gap and it would require both Russia taking it easy for a couple of decades and Washington changing its culture of cronyism, corruption and complacency. Don’t see much chance of either happening.

    The world has really changed.


  6. Since false flags are back in the news, been trying to recall the most prominent false flags of the past few decades, without stretching events into conspiratorial oblivion:

    Racak, Operation Podkova, Iraqi WMD, White Helmets, Maidan snipers


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