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Elites in France & USA reconsider their Hostility to Russia, from Peter Myers

(1) Eurasian Politics On The Cusp Of Change(2) The Establishment is Changing its Tune on Russia(3) Editorial Board of NYT cautions against driving Russia into China alliance(4) Chatham House says 'On Russia, Macron is mistaken'(1) Eurasian Politics On The Cusp Of Change by M. K. BHADRAKUMAR on 11/09/2019The meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of Russia and France in the 2+2 format in Moscow on September 9 signified not only a warming up of relations between the two countries but a reset in Russia’s ties with the West.The last time a Franco-Russian event in the 2+2 format took place was in October 2012 in Paris. A year later, the conflict erupted in Ukraine and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia. The trajectory since then appears to be reversing its course.The first signs appeared during the G7 summit in Biarritz on 24-26 August where the schism between the West and Russia significantly narrowed. The US President Donald Trump announced that he intended to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to next year’s G7 at Miami.In the run-up to the Biarritz summit and immediately thereafter, the host, French President Emmanuel Macron underscored that reversing the trend of distrust between the West and Russia is in the common interest. (See my blog Macron’s Carolingian Renaissance of the G7.)Antagonism in Europe toward Russia has been steadily giving way to a new thinking that isolating Moscow is not a viable strategy on the global stage. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared in July that "without Russia, we will not find answers to the pressing issues in global politics."Italy, of course, pioneered the new thinking and has sought the removal of the EU’s sanctions against Russia. In July, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described EU restrictions as "sad," and "not good for Russia, nor for the EU, nor for Italy."However, it is France’s role that becomes crucial today. Despite Moscow’s backing for Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate in France’s 2017 presidential election, Macron seemed a model of moderation no sooner than he assumed office to invite Putin to visit him. Putin gleefully accepted the invitation (although Macron was seen in Moscow as the least desirable presidential candidate for Russian interests.)In a summit at the highly-symbolic and sumptuous setting of Château de Versailles in May 2017, Macron held a "frank exchange" with Putin where they discussed "disagreements". At a joint news conference, both leaders said there were opportunities to work together more closely.Clearly, within ten days of assuming office as president, Macron was on the ball to bring Putin back in from the cold. Macron kept the lines open with Putin and even invited the Russian leader for talks at his residence on August 19 just days ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz. Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) at Fort Bregancon near the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas, France, Aug 19, 2019.Macron sees that it is upto him to grab a leadership role for France. He has attempted to play the role of a mediator in Libya’s civil war, the Syrian conflict, Ukraine and the situation around Iran. As Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean at the French Institute of International Relations recently told the AFP:"The stars are aligning a bit for Emmanuel Macron. He has the presidency of the G7 and the Council of Europe; Germany is no longer playing an active role in these matters; and London is paralysed by Brexit. He’s the de facto leader of Europe, and can legitimately speak for the West."Macron senses that a breakthrough is possible over Ukraine where the new president Volodymyr Zelensky appears determined to improve relations with Russia, which is also what his massive electoral mandate expects from him.On the other hand, Putin is eager to encourage Zelensky to push ahead to unlock the stalemate in Donbas by exploring the potentials of the Minsk agreements regarding some degree of autonomy for the breakaway regions.To be sure, the growing rapprochement between Moscow and Kiev resulted in the swap of dozens of prisoners in each other’s custody on Saturday, which is a hugely emotive issue and clears the deck for a summit meeting of the Normandy format (France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine) to accelerate a peace process in Donbas.Meanwhile, a trilateral meeting is also expected to take place within the year between Russia, European Union and Ukraine to discuss a new framework for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.Indeed, the ground beneath the feet is shifting. Trump struck the right cord by promptly welcoming Saturday’s prisoner swap: "Russia and Ukraine just swapped large numbers of prisoners. Very good news, perhaps a first giant step to peace. Congratulations to both countries!" Relatives of Ukrainian prisoners arriving from Russia at Borispil Airport, outside Kiev, September 7, 2019Unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump doesn’t see any vital US interests at stake in pitting Kiev against Moscow. Trump’s detached attitude is making a difference. He understands that only by easing tensions over Ukraine, a meaningful rapprochement with Russia becomes possible.On his part, Putin too knows that in order for Russia to play the optimal role as an independent power centre on the global stage and as a balancer in big-power politics — as well as for sustaining Russia’s resurgence in the medium and long-term — the strengthening of the European vector of its "Eurasianism" becomes imperative.Putin hopes to secure an easing of EU sanctions and a possible return to the G7. On the other hand, he is acutely conscious that the divergences among the Europeans and the discords within the transatlantic alliance strengthen Moscow’s hand in negotiations.However, there is going to be robust opposition from the western camp to any dismantling of sanctions against Russia. Britain will oppose tooth and nail any moves to give ground against Russia. (See an acerbic piece by the British think tank Chatham House titled On Russia, Macron Is Mistaken.)Again, how far Trump succeeds in forcing his will on the Russia policies remains to be seen. Fundamentally, the US establishment is nowhere near willing to accept the growing multipolarity in the world order. The US’ dual containment strategy against Russia and China is cast in stone, as the speech by the US Defence Secretary Mark T. Esper at London’s Royal United Services Institute last week reminds us.But then, the Chinese have a saying — ‘Dripping water can pierce a stone.’ The Russian-Ukrainian swap of prisoners and the resumption of the Franco-Russian meeting in the 2+2 format signal a high degree of perseverance on the part of Macron and Putin — with tacit support from Trump. One can hear the sound of dripping water.(2) The Establishment is Changing its Tune on Russia LAWRENCE: The Establishment is Changing its Tune on RussiaSeptember 9, 2019By Patrick Lawrence Special to Consortium NewsAre Western democracies, the U.S. and France in the lead, rethinking the hostility toward Russia they conjured out of nothing since Moscow responded to the coup Washington cultivated in Ukraine five years ago? Will Trump eventually succeed in putting ties with Russia on a more productive path — triumphing over the hawks hovering around him? Have the Europeans at last grown weary of following the U.S. lead on Russia even as it is against their interests to do so?In desultory fashion over the past month or so, we have had indications that the policy cliques in Washington are indeed reconsidering the Cold War II they set in motion during the Obama administration’s final years. And President Donald Trump, persistent in his effort to reconstruct relations with Russia, now finds an unlikely ally in Emmanuel Macron. This suggests a nascent momentum in a new direction."Pushing Russia away from Europe is a profound strategic mistake," the French president asserted in a stunning series of remarks to European diplomats immediately after the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz late last month.This alone is a bold if implicit attack on the hawkish Russophobes Trump now battles in Washington. Macron then outdid himself: "We are living the end of Western hegemony," he told the assembled envoys.It is difficult to recall when a Western leader last spoke so truthfully and insightfully of our 21stcentury realities, chief among them the inevitable rise of non–Western nations to positions of parity with the Atlantic world. You have nonetheless read no word of this occasion in our corporate media: Macron’s startling observations run entirely counter to the frayed triumphalism and nostalgia that grip Washington as its era of preeminence fades.There is much to indicate that the West’s aggressively hostile posture toward Russia remains unchanged. The Russophobic rhetoric emanating from Washington and featured daily in our corporate television broadcasts continues unabated. Last month Washington formally abandoned the bilateral treaty limiting deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, signed with Moscow in 1987. As anyone could have predicted, NATO now suggests it will upgrade its missile defense systems in Poland and Romania. This amounts to an engraved invitation to the Russian Federation to begin a new arms race.But a counter-argument favoring a constructive relationship with Russia is now evident. This is not unlike the abrupt volte-face in Washington’s thinking on North Korea: It is now broadly accepted that the Korean crisis can be resolved only at the negotiating table.The Times Are ChangingThe New York Times seems to be on board with this this sharp turn in foreign policy. It reported the new consensus on North Korea in a news analysis on July 11. Ten days later it published another arguing that it’s time to put down the spear and make amends with Moscow. Here is the astonishing pith of the piece: "China, not Russia, represents by far the greater challenge to American objectives over the long term. That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China."It is encouraging that the Times has at last discovered the well-elaborated alliance between Moscow and Beijing. It took the one-time newspaper of record long enough. But there is another feature of this article that is important to note: It was published as a lead editorial. This is not insignificant.It is essential, when reading the Times, to understand the close — not to say corrupt — relations it has maintained with political power in Washington over many generations. This is well-documented in histories of the paper and of institutions such as the CIA. An editorial advancing a policy shift of this magnitude almost certainly reflects the paper’s close consultations, at senior levels of management, with policy-setting officials at the National Security Council, the State Department, or at the Pentagon. The editorial is wholly in keeping with Washington’s pronounced new campaign to designate China as America’s most dangerous threat.It is impossible to say whether Trump is emboldened by an inchoate shift of opinion on Russia, but he flew his banner high at the Biarritz G–7. Prior to his departure for the summit in southwest France he asserted that Russia should be readmitted to the group when it convenes in the U.S. next year. Russia was excluded in 2014, following its annexation of Crimea in response to the coup in Kiev.Trump repeated the thought in Biarritz, claiming there was support among other members for the restoration of the G–8. "I think it’s a work in progress," he said. "We have a number of people that would like to see Russia back."Macron is plainly one of those people. It was just after Trump sounded his theme amid Biarritz’s faded grandeur — and what an excellent choice for a convention of the Western powers — that the French president made his own plea for repairing ties with Russia and for Europe to escape its fate as "a theater for strategic struggle between the U.S. and Russia.""The European continent will never be stable, will never be secure, if we don’t pacify and clarify our relations with Russia," Macron said in his address to Western diplomats. Then came his flourish on the imminent end of the Atlantic world’s preeminence."The world order is being shaken like never before. It’s being shaken because of errors made by the West in certain crises, but also by the choices made by the United States in the past few years— and not just by the current administration."Macron is an opportunistic main-chancer in European politics, and it is not at all certain how far he can or will attempt to advance his new vision of either the West or Europe in the Continent’s councils of state. But as evidence of a new current in Western thinking about Russia, the non–West in general, and Europe’s long-nursed desire for greater independence from Washington, the importance of his comments is beyond dispute.The question now is whether or how soon better ties with Moscow will translate into practical realities. At present, Trump and Macron share a good idea without much substance to it.Better US-Russia Ties May Be in PipelineBut Trump may have taken a step in the right direction. Within days of his return from Biarritz, he put a hold on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a military aid program that was to provide Kiev with $250 million in assistance during the 2019 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and runs to Sept. 30, 2020. The funds are designated for weaponry, training and intelligence support.Trump has asked his national security advisers to review the commitment. The delay, coming hard on his proposal to readmit Russia to a reconstituted G–8, cannot possibly be read as a coincidence.There will be other things to watch for in months to come. High among these is Trump’s policy toward the Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russian gas fields to terminals in Western Europe, thereby cutting Ukraine out of the loop. Trump, his desire to improve ties with Moscow notwithstanding, has vigorously opposed this project. The Treasury Department has threatened sanctions against European contractors working on it. If Trump is serious about bringing Russia back into the fold, this policy will have to go. This may mean going up against the energy lobby in Washington and Ukraine’s many advocates on Capitol Hill.To date, U.S. threats to retaliate against construction of Nord Stream 2 have done nothing but irritate Europeans, who have ignored them, while furthering the Continent’s desire to escape Washington’s suffocating embrace. This is precisely the kind of contradiction Macron addressed when he protested that Europeans need to begin acting in their own interests rather than acquiesce as Washington force-marches them on a never-ending anti–Russia crusade.Macron may prove a pushover, or a would-be Gaullist who fails to make the grade. Or he may have just announced a long-awaited inflection point in trans–Atlantic ties. Either way, he has put highly significant questions on the table. It will be interesting to see what responses they may elicit, not least from the Trump White House.Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is "Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century" (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.(3) Editorial Board of NYT cautions against driving Russia into China alliance{but they're two years too late; the NYT being to blame for stopping rapproachement with Russia. The CFR's Foreign Affairs and George Soros' Project Syndicate are still hostile to Putin - Peter M}’s America’s Winning Hand if Russia Plays the China Card?The two adversaries are growing closer, posing a strategic challenge to the United States.By The Editorial BoardThe editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.July 21, 2019One of the striking warnings in a recent Pentagon white paper on the growing strategic threat from Russia is that its president, Vladimir Putin, could pull a "reverse Nixon" and play his own version of the "China card" with the United States, a reference to the former president’s strategy of playing those two adversaries against each other.Until recently, any relationship between Russia and China could largely be dismissed as a marriage of convenience with limited impact on American interests. But since Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine in 2014, Chinese and Russian authorities have increasingly found common cause, disparaging Western-style democracy and offering themselves as alternatives to America’s postwar leadership. Now China and Russia are growing even closer, suggesting a more permanent arrangement that could pose a complex challenge to the United States."The world system, and American influence in it, would be completely upended if Moscow and Beijing aligned more closely," John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, wrote in the report, to which Defense Department officials and other analysts contributed.The latest evidence of warming ties was a meeting last month in Moscow at which Mr. Putin thanked the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, for enabling the two countries to do more than $100 billion worth of trade in 2018, up 30 percent from the previous year, and an implicit rebuke to America’s trade standoff with China. The two countries also signed more than two dozen agreements. That meeting came shortly after Mr. Xi called Mr. Putin his "best and bosom friend." The leaders have met almost 30 times since 2013. Russia recently agreed to sell China its latest military technology, including S400 surface-to-air missiles and SU-35 fighter jets.While China and Russia have conducted joint military exercises intermittently for more than a decade, they began naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean in 2012 and last fall, staged what Russia called their biggest war games in decades in eastern Siberia. They plan to hold joint exercises on a regular basis in the future.With melting ice opening new opportunities for oil and gas exploration, researchers from the two nations recently agreed to open a joint Arctic research center. They often vote alike at the United Nations and have similar positions on Iran and North Korea. Both have become much more active in the Middle East, where Russia is trying to regain its standing as a major power and China is trying to cultivate relations with energy suppliers like Iran.The Pentagon white paper, and a separate report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warn that the United States and its allies are not moving fast enough to counter efforts by Russia and China to foment instability with "gray zone" tactics that fall short of military involvement — the use of proxy forces, political and economic coercion, disinformation, cyberoperations, and jamming technologies against American satellites.In his State of the Nation address in February, Mr. Putin expressed confidence that ties with China would enhance Russian security and prosperity, especially as he aligns his Eurasian Economic Union plan with China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, a colossal infrastructure program designed to link China with Asia, Africa and Europe.Given its economic, military and technological trajectory, together with its authoritarian model, China, not Russia, represents by far the greater challenge to American objectives over the long term. That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China. But his approach has been ham-handed and at times even counter to American interests and values. America can’t seek warmer relations with a rival power at the price of ignoring its interference in American democracy. Yet even during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union often made progress in one facet of their relationship while they remained in conflict over other aspects.The United States and Russia could expand their cooperation in space. The United States is already dependent on Russian rockets to reach the International Space Station. They could also continue to work closely in the Arctic, as members of the Arctic Council that has negotiated legally binding agreements governing search and rescue operations and responses to oil spills. And they could revive cooperation on arms control, especially by extending the New Start Treaty. It was encouraging that top State Department officials met their Russian counterparts twice in recent weeks, including in Geneva on Wednesday, although there was no immediate sign that the two sides made any progress on arms control or other major issues.Given their history, China and Russia may never reach a formal alliance. The two have been divided by war and ideological rivalries and even now compete for influence in East Asia, Central Asia and the Arctic. Their contrasting trajectories would also make an alliance difficult. China is a rising power and the dominant partner; Russia is declining. China has the world’s second largest economy; Russia’s is not even in the top 10.Still, their shared objectives could increase, further threatening Western interests. America needs to rally its democratic allies, rather than berate them, and project a more confident vision of its own political and economic model.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 22 of the New York edition with the headline: What if Russia Plays the China Card?(4) Chatham House says 'On Russia, Macron is mistaken' Russia, Macron is mistaken11 September 2019The French president may well be standing tall over his European counterparts, but his overtures toward the Kremlin are repeating the mistakes of so many other Western leaders, past and presentAuthor : James NixeyThere is no world leader with a more contradictory attitude toward Russia than Emmanuel Macron.The French president was ostensibly the ‘least apologist’ candidate of those running in the first round of the 2017 elections. Compared to the Russian-funded Marine Le Pen on one end of the spectrum, and the radical leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the other, Macron seemed a model of moderation.To the Kremlin, he must have been perceived as the least desirable candidate for its interests, which is why they hacked the servers of his party, En Marche, just prior to the vote in a last-ditch attempt to derail the campaign. Moscow need not have feared.It all started so promisingly. Even though Vladimir Putin was a worryingly early visitor to France in Macron’s first weeks as president, the French leader seemed to possess some early backbone.At the highly-symbolic venue of Château de Versailles, standing a metre away from his Russian counterpart at a press conference, he called out Russia Today and Sputnik as agents of influence and propaganda – an unusually bold stance considering heads of state are generally more inclined to diplomatic nicety over directness when meeting counterparts. It was also impressive considering the vast difference in experience between the two men.The picture since then has, to be generous, been mixed. The French leader’s sizeable mandate, combined with the unwise aspiration of ‘winning Russia round’, has won out over principles – and over the evidence.Macron’s recent meeting with Putin at Brégançon directly before the G7 summit, and the Biarritz summit itself, produced numerous assertions about Russia which, whether one agrees with them or not, simply contradicted each other.Take a couple of Macron proclamations at G7: he lambasts Russia over its repression of protests in Moscow and calls for the Kremlin to ‘abide by fundamental democratic principles’. At the same time he makes overtures that ‘Russia and Europe [should be brought] back together’.A country that is ramping up repressive actions against its own citizens who dare to stand up for themselves is, sadly – but logically – not fit to be ‘back’ with Europe (and it is not certain that they were ever together). The interesting question is whether Macron is aware that his statements are mutually exclusive.To say, as Macron did, that ‘we’ are ‘pushing Russia away from Europe’ without elaborating on such an evidence-free statement (since it was Russia who was distancing itself through its own actions) is appealing to those who know a little about Russia and international relations. But it is factually wrong to anyone who simply takes the trouble to make a list of Russia’s recent transgressions of international law.Dialogue for the sake of dialogue – without principles or concrete objectives – is a slippery slope to accommodating Russia’s interests. France was already instrumental in reinstating Russia at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in June 2019. And during the traditional discours aux ambassadeurs on 27 August, Macron went further by effectively excusing Russia from any responsibility for the frozen conflicts around its periphery.This might not matter had Macron not fallen into the role of first among European equals. With Angela Merkel in the twilight of her career and all recent UK prime ministers distracted by Brexit (except, perhaps, for two weeks following the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal), fate and ambition have given Macron added heft.In any case, the German and British positions on Russia have been compromised by Nordstream II and the City of London’s role in funnelling Russian criminal proceeds. The danger is that this French heft translates into policy which in turn translates into the lowering of defences and the sacrificing of allies, such as Ukraine and Georgia.Macron’s contradictory stance towards Russia can be explained by French foreign policy tradition and by the president’s own hubris. It has long been commonplace for France to acknowledge Russia’s role in European security architecture from ‘Lisbon to Vladivostok’, and to respect its ‘great power’ status (even if self-proclaimed).Macron himself is emblematic of a wider tendency in French politics and business – looking to build bridges with the Kremlin, regardless of how wide the chasm between them is.The hubris comes with Macron’s personal dream that ‘France is back’, and in his belief that that can only succeed if Russia is back too – both in Europe and as a buffer against China. This was made abundantly clear in the discours aux ambassadeurs.That olive branches have been extended to Vladimir Putin countless times over the past 20 years does not necessarily mean that no more should ever be forthcoming, should a future Kremlin leadership offer any meaningful concession. What it definitely does mean, however, is that the lessons need to be learned as to why they have been rebuffed hitherto: because ‘what Russia wants’ is incompatible with established Western conceptions of the European security order.The French president’s assumption that he can find a way to bring Russia into the fold (or in from the cold...) is mistaken because Russia does not want to be brought in, even if it says it does. And certainly not on the EU’s terms. When G7 leaders such as Donald Trump blithely call for Russia’s return, insufficient consideration is given to Russia’s broader strategic aims. Instead, the overriding temptation is to take what what Putin says in press conferences alongside other heads of state at face value.France pushing for dialogue with Moscow without self-discipline or preconditions means accommodating illegitimate Russian interests. Even if Macron is indifferent to that, he may not realize that in a world where great powers carve up spheres of influence once more, France stands to lose.