Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Nov 10, 2020
Keeping the Status Quo—Biden on Russia 

During the campaign, US President-elect Joe Biden has been categorical in classifying Russia as an opponent, declaring that costs must be imposed on the former superpower when accusations against it are proven while citing electoral interference as an action that interferes with American sovereignty. He has noted that the US must stand up to Russia alongside its allies, while emphasising the role of democratic values in American foreign policy.

This would mean—unlike the Trump administration—an uptick in strong rhetoric from Washington criticising Russia for its various actions. But beyond the messaging, most analysts expect US-Russia ties to continue much in the same vein as that of the past four years. There is neither an expectation of sanctions relief nor of an improvement in US-Russia relations that have hit their lowest level since the end of the Cold War—much like the Trump years.

Some change will be visible in the case of NATO, where Biden has declared his commitment to strengthening its military capabilities, calling it an alliance of values that Russia wants to destroy. A strengthening of the trans-Atlantic partnership and a focus on democracy in foreign policy is hardly welcome news for the Kremlin.

However, Biden’s emphasis on the need for diplomacy and sustained talks with Russia to prevent any misunderstanding will be a positive move. So will be the new administration’s commitment to extend the new-START to maintain strategic stability. There exist areas of mutual concern for the two sides—Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Middle East, terrorism, cyber-warfare, climate change, and the pandemic—that offer chances for constructive diplomacy.

But this is hardly expected to address the fundamental divergences between the US and Russia over the future world order and their respective roles in it or lead to a significant improvement/deterioration of ties; even more so amidst a US-China rivalry that will define the international system in the days to come.

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Nivedita Kapoor

Nivedita Kapoor

Nivedita Kapoor is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the International Laboratory on World Order Studies and the New Regionalism Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs ...

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