Thaw between the US and Russia already over?

On Tuesday, Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin and proposed a personal meeting - just a few weeks after criticising him in the strongest possible terms. Now the US government has imposed financial sanctions and expelled ten Russian diplomats after concluding that Moscow was responsible for a major hacking attack and interference in the 2020 US presidential election. European media try to make sense of the zigzagging.

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Iswestija (RU) /

A concession to the left

Writing in Izvestia, political scientist Edward Lozansky sees a clear motive for Biden's change of policy towards Russia:

“The main reason is an open and coordinated push by the left wing of the Democratic Party, in which 27 of its organisations urged Biden to stop using 'reckless' rhetoric with Putin and instead engage in 'constructive bilateral negotiations'. ... They called on Biden to make good on his commitment to put diplomacy 'back at the centre of our foreign policy'. Biden was forced to make concessions to the leftists, because they form a significant faction in Congress. If he loses their support, many of his plans will remain paper tigers.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Summit off the agenda for now

Despite all the hostility, Moscow and Washington know they can't allow their dispute to escalate any further, says La Vanguardia:

“The relationship between the two rivals is going through a difficult period, but both parties are aware that this is a delicate tug-of-war in which it is better to tighten the ropes but not break them. What does seem to be clear is that the draconian financial sanctions against Russia and the expulsion of diplomats make a meeting between Biden and Putin this year less likely.”

LB.ua (UA) /

An effective gesture

With his invitation, Joe Biden has managed to defuse the situation in eastern Ukraine, columnist Vitaly Portnikov comments in lb.ua:

“For the Russian president, such a meeting with his American counterpart is a kind of recognition of his own political importance. Putin can feel like a Soviet general secretary meeting with the American president at a time of acute crisis. And of course, any aggressive action by Moscow would disrupt this summit. ... In fact this is probably the most important thing Biden can do for Ukraine today: to be crystal clear about his support for our country and to 'lure' Putin with the prospect of a meeting.”

Trud (BG) /

Always the weaker who approaches the stronger

The proposal is a diplomatic defeat for the US, Trud contends:

“Although the proposed summit between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is to take place in a third country, the advantage lies with the invitee. In this test of nerves the one who blinks first loses, and Biden has now lost. This development comes against the backdrop of several very important processes. First, the two countries have failed to break Iran. ... Secondly, as a result, it is very likely that in a few years there will officially be new countries in the club of nuclear powers. ... Thirdly: the situation in Ukraine.”

Echo Moskwy (RU) /

Opposition left in the lurch

Journalist and former opposition member of the State Duma Alexei Melnikov sees Biden's initiating contact with Putin as a betrayal of the democratic opposition in Russia. He writes in a Telegram post republished by Echo of Moscow:

“Biden has proven that he is a cynical power politician whose interests extend no further than his own country. It is you, the Russian supporters of the values of freedom and democracy, whom he is willing to sacrifice when he meets with the man he called a 'murderer'. You're being killed, beaten, jailed and persecuted here, but Biden only pretends to care. Of course, Russia is not his country. But America is a world power that stands up for freedom and human rights. With regard to Russia, that is no longer true.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The West needs this Biden

Rzeczpospolita says the move shows Biden as a strong leader again:

“Judging by his activity on many diplomatic fronts, it's clear that Biden wants to limit the number of conflicts, end as many secondary conflicts as possible and appease some of his enemies in order to focus on China and Russia, at least as long as Russia doesn't change its policy. The Kremlin is unlikely to want to make such a change, even if it were possible. It is crucial that Biden does not relent. The pandemic-ravaged West needs a resolute leader. And it needs a clear message, without hypocrisy motivated by national interests.”