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Is Softer US Policy on Russia Even Possible?

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Presidential appointments can be revealing, not only in terms of those who are appointed but of those who are passed over, or kept in the shadows. One case in point is not breaking news, but nevertheless revealing, as is seen by the title of a recent MSM news article.

Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin, as the article puts it. It claims that President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council.

It is an understatement to say that the US-Russian relationship is very multi-faceted. Much like the Turkish-Russian relationship, there is collaboration in some areas but competition and antagonism in others.

But what does the nomination of Rojansky actually mean, considering that the Kennan Institute is one of the world’s premier think tanks on Russia, and is not closing ranks with the usual promoters of the Russian-bashing agenda? Rojansky previously served as Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, another more amenable body from a Russian point of view. So are we seeing a shift in US policy towards Russia?

Not Any Old Enemy

Biden is faced with some challenges which will make him question even his own foreign policy rhetoric now he is in the White House, and especially his own track record.

As the New Yorker writes, “In no foreign policy area is the rhetorical contrast between the last US President, who openly fawned over Putin, and the current one, who disdains him, more significant.” However the US-Russian relationship tends to h ave quite widespread, even global consequences (though not to the scale of the US-Soviet fallouts during the Cold War).

For the last four years Russia bashing was no longer about political differences but implicating Trump in involvement in some “real or perceived scheme”. So the US has to decide if it wants to move beyond rhetoric designed for domestic purposes and actually face the challenge of dealing with what Russia actually does in the real world. Hence Rojansky.

Some hawkish positions previously taken as defaults are no longer sustainable. On a number of issues there can be true collaboration: climate change, the International Space Station, terrorism. But Rojansky will be just one voice among many when it comes to dealing with the Kremlin. No doubt the White House will have others weighing in as well.

Let us not forget that one of the main reasons that Biden was VP under Biden Obama was [allegedly] his foreign policy experience. Being soft is what diplomacy should be about in the wake of the last several presidents. But Biden is poised to continue the previous tradition – indeed, the emphasis placed on his foreign policy experience means he has been anointed to do so.

It would be nice to believe that the new administration actually believes........

© New Eastern Outlook

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