The Biden-Putin summit has elicited hopes for a new status quo in relations between Russia and the West, marked by guardrails and the prevention of further destabilization. Yet this momentum will be short-lived if it is not backed up by coordination between the United States and Europe, and commitment from Moscow.
The central feature of the new strategy is its focus on Russia itself. The Russian leadership has every reason right now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.
For now, there is no public discussion of exploiting Antarctic mineral deposits, but in 2048, the Madrid protocol banning mining is due to be reviewed, and it’s unlikely the status quo will remain in place.
Fresh attempts to expose Russian “red line” deterrence as hollow—whether on the ground, in the air, or at sea—would push Moscow to defend what it cannot give up without losing its self-respect. This would almost inevitably lead to clashes and casualties, which would carry the risk of further escalation.
What Moscow is proposing is a renewed format of Cold War–era relations, when the two sides operated in full recognition of their obvious differences, contained each other’s expansion, and together wrote the rules needed to avoid a fatal collision.
Putin will probably be interested in assessing where Biden’s real concerns lie; where the sensitive areas may be in which mutual restraint, rather than unattainable compromise arrangements, may be the best way forward for now; and how the United States might act and respond under different scenarios.
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