Belarus is figure in Biden’s game of cards with Putin. Should one expect big deal?

US President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation in Belarus. And while relations between Washington and Moscow do not look the best, many are hoping for a “big deal” in many areas between the two countries. How does the Kremlin master imagine Lukashenka’s political future, can we hope for support from the United States for the people of Belarus, and can Putin and Biden agree at all?

June 16 is an important day for international politics: the leaders of the United States and Russia will meet in Geneva. Joe Biden will hold talks with Vladimir Putin for the first time. According to White House spokesman Jen Psaki, the United States is seeking to restore predictability and stability in its relations with Russia.

Maria Juczewska, International Relations Analyst, Poland:

“First of all, we must pay attention to the fact that the current US administration is trying to move away as far as possible from the decisions made by the previous administration. This can be seen, for example, from the US position in the Middle East, which does not continue the policy of the previous US president. And if we see attempts by Biden to de-escalate relations with Islamic states, we can expect the same approach towards Eastern Europe, as well as with regard to NATO.”

At the same time, the White House said it was necessary to discuss Russia’s presence in the Donbas, arms control, climate change, Russian cyberattacks by the United States, and the poisoning and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The discussion of the situation in Belarus in general and the forced landing of the Ryanair plane in particular are also announced.

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Alexander Morozov, political scientist, Prague, Czech Republic:

“As we know, Putin has a small package, so to speak, of offers to Biden. Lavrov also spoke about it when announcing the meeting. He said that Russia is ready to talk only on specific topics of bilateral cooperation. This means that Putin, for his part, will not discuss human rights or any geopolitical issues.”

However, the Kremlin’s rhetoric does not always coincide with the real intentions. There are many indications that the issue of Belarus, among others, will still be on the agenda, at least for the reason that Putin himself is becoming more and more interested in stabilizing the situation in our country. And it seems that in Sochi, Lukashenka got once again acquainted with such intentions and was explained the real state of affairs.

“Hey, listen to me, we need entry into several sectors of the Belarusian economy, we need our scenario of political transit. These are political parties, with a parliamentary majority… In any case at least because we can sell it to Europe at the next stage. Like, look here, there’s democracy! And the Russians have already implemented this stage twice in the last three years,” thinks Ihar Tyshkevich, an expert at the Ukrainian Institute of the Future.

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We are talking about Armenia and Moldova, where Russia continues to maintain its influence with the help of loyal parties in parliaments, as well as strong economic levers. It seems that such a scenario is planned to be implemented in Belarus as well, which would satisfy many people both inside and outside the country today. But the plan is only on the way to its implementation, as Lukashenka, most likely, does not agree to it.

Ihar Tyshkevich, expert of the Ukrainian Institute of the Future:

“What does that mean? Russia agrees to formal democracy, the so-called rule by the people. But Western partners agree on the dominant influence of the Russian Federation in this country in the economy, military sphere and so on. They also agree on future combinations and configurations for a change of political power provided that they do not destroy the so-called external democracy.”

The scenario looks plausible also for the reason that the United States has already taken certain steps to make concessions to Russia. So far, Washington has waived sanctions against the company that manages the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, and its head, Matthias Warnig, a former employee of the German communist secret service Stasi and a personal friend of Putin.

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Maria Juczewska, International Relations Analyst, Poland:

“The political class of the United States is of the opinion that politics resembles business, and business can be done with everyone. And they sometimes lose the fact that power is not just economic power. And that the people who run some countries are not always guided by rational approach. Therefore, even if the United States will try to approach relations with Russia in a business-like manner, sooner or later they will be convinced that it is not just about economy and money. It is, so to speak, about “power over the world,” even if it sounds a little too loud.”

However, it is important that before meeting with Putin, Biden will take part in the G7 and NATO summits. In addition, the US President will hold bilateral meetings with each of the leaders of the G7 countries. Negotiations with the EU leadership are also planned. According to the result of those meetings and working out the West’s common position, Biden’s conversation with Putin will take place.

Alexander Morozov, political scientist, Prague, Czech Republic:

“Biden will present to Putin this consolidated position of the West as a whole – the European Union, the United States, and many US allies will join there. He will explain this to Putin, and after this meeting we will get a long, six-month madness of the Kremlin regarding Europe, the European Union, and relations with the West in general. That is, after this meeting, the Kremlin will go to a new level of escalation.”

The only question is whether Russia is ready for this increase in stakes. In addition, it seems that the cards in this game will be dealt by the West. Therefore, it is quite possible that Putin will discard certain small cards in order to stay in the game. And the peak jack of Belarus got clearly strained because of that.

Zmitser Mitskevich for the news show PraSviet (World and Us) with Syarhei Pelyasa on June 3, 2021

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