Sometimes enemies have more topics to talk about than friends

Mikhail Rostovsky

Biden spoke out against recognizing Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Does the President of the United States “matrix break”? Previously, the American leader either initiated or ardently supported all conceivable and unthinkable measures aimed at causing the maximum possible and impossible damage to the Kremlin.
And then suddenly such moderation or even a rollback: in the very recent past, Biden’s subordinates stated that such a measure was not ruled out.
In fact, there is no “suddenly” – there is only the desire of the United States not to bring the conflict to a formal break in relations with Russia.
Official Moscow said this almost openly: what will happen if you recognize us as a state sponsor of terrorism? There will be a finita la comedy. Official diplomatic relations between Russia and America will cease. The Russian Embassy in Washington and the US Embassy in Moscow will be closed (for reference: this did not happen even during the most intense days of the first Cold War).
Biden doesn’t need it. As a sober, albeit very hostile politician, he understands the importance of maintaining channels of communication with states that are America’s enemies (the terms “partner, rival and competitor” no longer capture the essence of what is happening). That’s the whole clue to the “conciliatory attitude” of the US President.
Regardless of the reasons for this attitude, is it still good news? No question.
As we well know, things can always get worse. But this is good news, which may yet be offset by the desire of hotheads in the US Congress to still declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, despite the president’s position, only underlines the overall bleak landscape of relations between Moscow and the West.
I wanted to say something profound, but the result was something primitive and banal? It looks like it. I will therefore strengthen my thought. The current “relationship landscape” looks even bleaker than it looked under Khrushchev or Brezhnev.
I will give a clear example. On my bookshelf, among other tomes, is a 1971 London volume of memoirs by former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. One of the highlights of this book is a photograph of Macmillan, a venerable elderly gentleman in a formal suit and tie, standing arm in arm with two Soviet milkmaids from a state farm near Kyiv.
How can this be? And here’s how: in 1959, as part of a visit to the USSR, Macmillan went to Kyiv, where, according to the British prime minister, he “was allowed to visit St. Sophia Cathedral” and pose for a photo with “attractive thrush women.”
What a contrast to 2022! British politics is like a hobby for me. And I spent all of Tuesday evening in front of my computer, watching the public demarches of the new premier, Liz Truss, and the formation of her cabinet.
Is it nice when a hobby is also a job? Alas, but in this case we can only talk about a hobby. Will the fact that Boris Johnson is replaced by Liz Truss somehow affect relations between Moscow and London? No, it won’t. But will these relations somehow be affected if the Truss party is defeated in the upcoming parliamentary elections (they can take place at any time until December 2024) and the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Sir Keir Starmer, becomes the new prime minister? Again, it won’t work.
Official London will continue to ardently support Kyiv, without asking “permission” from Moscow. The course towards a fierce confrontation with Russia is not the position of individual politicians or even individual parties. This is the consolidated position of the entire British political class, which is unlikely to be able to budge.
Of course, during the last Cold War, the attitude of official London towards the Kremlin, right up to the famous meeting of Mar-garet Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev at the country residence of the British Prime Minister Checkers in 1984, was also sharply negative. But, for example, about relations between Moscow and Germany under all our leaders, starting with Brezhnev, it would be wrong to say this.
Since the beginning of the 1970s, these relations have been a full-fledged partnership – both political and, perhaps more importantly, economic and energy. The border conflict with China on the Damansky Peninsula in 1969 made Moscow think about building relations with other countries.
Among other things, the Brezhnev Kremlin began to drive wedges to Bonn (if anyone forgot, the capital of West Germany was then located there). And understanding was quickly foun-d. Soviet gas deliveries be-came an additional engine of economic growth for the FRG. And Moscow, in addition to a source of hard currency, received from the West Germans large-diameter pipes for gas pipelines and new technologies.
Now we are witnessing the systematic collapse of the infrastructure of relations (as well as gas pipelines) that was built at that time.
German Chancellor Scholz said that Russia is no longer a reliable supplier of energy resources. The Kremlin, through the mouth of Dmitry Peskov, made it clear that large-format gas supplies to Westerners, familiar in the recent past, will be able to resume only after the lifting of sanctions against Moscow. Today Vladimir Putin spoke sharply about the gas issue.
In the long run, neither side will (and cannot) make concessions. Moscow and Berlin are like a married couple whose relationship has irrevocably broken down, but which is still unable to file a divorce due to the huge amount of jointly acquired property. But divorce will still be necessary. And “breaking with an ax” this jointly acquired property in the form, for example, of the same infrastructure of gas pipelines – too.
And I have described only some of the strategic fault lines between Russia and the West. But these fault lines can be tactical – but no less important.
The representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said that the “product deal” (supply of grain from Ukrainian ports) could be terminated, as part of the agreements regarding exports from Russia are not being implemented. President Putin said at the Eastern Economic Forum: Russia was “rudely thrown” with the grain deal, since out of 80 ships only 2 went to the poorest countries.
Do you now understand why it is so important to keep communication channels between Moscow and the West open? Biden clearly understood before anyone else: sometimes enemies have more topics to talk about than friends. Hence his “concession” to Putin.