Biden, follow the speech: the double bottom of the Kremlin ultimatum

At stake is much more than the prospect of severing US-Russian diplomatic relations

Hey, Biden, keep your mouth shut – the threatening statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry that the recent personal insults of the US President against Putin put relations between the two countries “on the verge of rupture”, many experts saw as a prelude to the cessation of diplomatic relations. However, Moscow’s ultimatum, in my opinion, has a much more important “double bottom”.

The severance of diplomatic relations, the suspension of diplomatic relations, the recall of ambassadors “for consultation” – in the current situation, all these symbolic gestures can be compared to hitting a candy wrapper, a prick with a paper needle. Experience suggests that what is meant by diplomatic relations does not end at the moment of their formal rupture.

Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia in 2008. However, during the current crisis, Tbilisi, despite all its inclinations towards the West, refused to impose sanctions on Moscow. Diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States have not existed since 1979. But that does not stop Washington and Tehran from engaging in intense diplomatic bargaining to resume an Iranian nuclear deal under Obama that was destroyed under Trump.

In short, to hell with symbolic gestures and diplomatic formalities. Let’s talk better about the essence of the question. In English-language political jargon, there is such a term – conflict by proxy (“indirect conflict”). Here is the scientific definition of what lies behind this term: “An international conflict between two countries that are trying to achieve their own goals through military action in the territory and using the resources of a third country.”

I’m sure you already understand what I’m leaning towards. Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is, to a large extent, a conflict by proxy between Moscow and Washington, between Russia and the collective West.

Of course, the role of Zelensky and the entire current political elite in Kiev can by no means be reduced to the role of wordless puppets, as some hotheads in our country sometimes do. I will therefore express myself more cautiously and, I think, more precisely: in the political hierarchy of Moscow’s opponents, the official Ukrainian leadership occupies a subordinate place. Zelensky can shine endlessly with eloquence during his speeches in the US Congress, the German Bundestag and the Israeli Knesset. But if the collective West commands him: “We must agree!” – He will negotiate.

Is the arrival of such a team not expected in the near future? Unfortunately, it seems so. Ten days ago, I was cautiously optimistic about the possible imminent positive outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian talks. However, being optimistic in 2022 is probably a losing strategy.

The link between the collective West and official Kyiv is clearly now betting on further escalation, on the depletion of the enemy (that is, Russia), on the “resolution of contradictions” through hostilities. The end of the story? Can the channels of communication between Moscow and Washington be safely closed and sealed due to their uselessness?

Not so fast! Keeping such channels in working order is extremely, I would even say vital, important. Anne Neuberger, Joe Biden’s cybersecurity adviser, was briefed at the White House earlier this week: “The president has made it clear that we are not looking for a conflict with Russia. We are driven by the president’s desire to avoid war at any cost, to invest in diplomacy. ” Correct, very correct questioning. In modern technological conditions, war by proxy can easily turn into war without any proxy there (in the sense of intermediaries). And that means the end of everything – or at least human civilization in its current form.

But where are the signs of Joe Biden’s desire to “invest in diplomacy,” as his adviser, Anne Neuberger, spoke so eloquently? I do not want to act as “Mr. Obvious”, but the personal insults of the President of the United States to Putin – this is exactly the movement in the opposite direction from “investment in diplomacy.” This is the killing of diplomacy, this is its blocking. Biden is the only person in Putin’s eyes who can act as an authorized representative of the collective West. Of course, before, the GDP responded to the personal attacks of the American president with counters in the style of “whoever is called, he is called so.” But it follows from the statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry that the time for this “before” has passed.

In the previous paragraph, I mixed together two related but still different political phenomena – the need to maintain a working negotiation mechanism to prevent military incidents during the war by proxy and the need to maintain the possibility of large-scale political talks between Russia and the United States in case of political war bored one or both sides or if the situation in the world becomes very dangerous. I admit it – I could not speak elegantly. But is it possible in principle to speak elegantly and without piling everything up about a situation that is not elegant and where everything is piled up?

I have already exhausted my personal stock of “verbal elegance” during the current phase of the crisis. For this reason, I will speak quite simply: I very much hope that at least this signal from Moscow will reach the consciousness of the main man in Washington. Otherwise, Russian-American relations are shining “blockage of signals” or, in medical terms, thrombosis. For those who do not know: thrombosis is deadly. When it covers 75% of the cross section of the artery, there are signs of hypoxia, or oxygen starvation, at the level of overlap in 90% of the patient can no longer be saved.


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