Ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s long-awaited visit to Washington, USIP’s Donald Jensen says many in D.C. “see the [Ukrainian] fight against corruption as a key benchmark” in determining the future of U.S. assistance, including for Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia.
Despite numerous points of tension, Presidents Biden and Putin characterized this week’s meeting in positive terms. Now, “the administration is trying to decide to what extent to cooperate with the Kremlin … and to what extent to push back,” said USIP’s Donald Jensen ahead of the summit.
While the Taliban’s swift advance into Kabul over the weekend has left much of the West reeling, Afghans themselves will bear the brunt of the militant group’s rule. Beyond Afghanistan’s borders, its neighbors will feel the most immediate impact. Earlier this year, Russia, China and Pakistan affirmed that the future of Afghanistan should be decided through dialogue and political negotiations. How will they engage with the Taliban now?
While Presidents Biden and Putin meet amid the strained U.S.-Russian relations in a generation, this week’s summit could yield moves to rebuild predictability in that relationship, especially new steps to address rising global risks to stability and security. Even as the United States confronts Putin over his wielding of selective chaos as a foreign policy crowbar, both sides share an interest in managing disparate international threats—from the weakening of the limits on nuclear weapons and the emergence of new high technology weapons, to climate change and COVID. The summit could reopen dialogue on such challenges.
Russian ships and trains are moving back the tens of thousands of troops massed on Ukraine’s border because, Russia’s defense minister said last week, their “surprise inspection” had “demonstrated their ability to ensure the reliable defense of the country.” In reality, the Kremlin stood down after its saber-rattling failed to unnerve the Ukrainians—and after President Biden warned President Vladimir Putin directly to drop the military threat, effectively...
Russia was rocked by demonstrations over the weekend, as thousands braved freezing temperatures to protest the detention of dissident Alexei Navalny. The opposition leader had just returned to Russia after recovering from a poisoning attack, suspected to undertaken by the Kremlin. But Russians’ grievances go well beyond the treatment of Navalny. Corruption, a foundering economy, and dissatisfaction with the ruling elite threaten to propel the protests into a broader movement against President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The Kremlin has alleged that the protests are a Western plot to destabilize Russia. USIP’s Donald Jensen looks at the underlying factors driving the protests, what threat they pose to Putin’s regime, and what, if any, role the United States can play.
With relations between the United States and Russia at a low point, the incoming Biden Administration faces the challenge of finding the right balance between showing firmness toward the Kremlin and engaging on issues of mutual interest, above all arms control. President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he may agree to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years, a decision that could clear the way for further negotiations. But while extension of New START could lead to discussions on other areas of arms control, the potential for breakthroughs in the U.S.-Russia relationship appears dim.
As people in Belarus continue massive protests against an autocratic ruler and a rigged election, risks are rising that Russia’s military could take a direct role, less visible than an overt invasion, projecting power westward toward NATO and threatening Ukraine from the north. The dramatic images of this prodemocracy movement resemble those from neighboring Ukraine, yet one difference is critical. The Belarus uprising seeks no sharp break from Russia or turn toward the European Union or NATO. So effective policies to advance Belarusians’ democratic hopes should work for the long term.
After an “obviously crooked election” in Belarus sparked massive protests, USIP’s Don Jensen says Russia is quietly using the situation to assert influence. If Moscow’s military presence in Belarus increases, “I think you’re going to see a much more forward projection of Russian power against NATO,” he said.