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Russia is a great but lonely country

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — We’ll make a reservation right away: the discussion about the invitation of Russia to the circle of leading Western states, launched by US President Donald Trump on the eve of the G7 summit in Biarritz, is artificial and completely groundless.

The G8, which has been clear since 2014, cannot and will not be restored. And the point is not only that Russia does not belong to the family of liberal democracies, but its leader considers liberalism obsolete; confrontation between Russia and the USA has been going on for five years, comparable to the Cold War, and this new confrontation has a long-term tendency to escalate.

At the same time, Trump’s provocation was not without interest. It allowed highlighting some significant points in the current relations between Russia and the West.

Fears of the West

First, she confirmed that Trump, and today the American establishment as a whole, see the main threat to the United States in China. It is this threat that makes us think about strengthening the position of the West. Washington, which from the beginning of the 1990s was accustomed to ignoring the Russian factor in international relations as insignificant, was faced with the reality of an increasingly close and multilateral – including military aspects – rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow.

Former US administrations were calm about Russian-Chinese interaction, considering Russia too weak and of little interest to China, and Sino-Russian contradictions too strong to allow a lasting alliance between the two countries.

As a result, the United States neglected the important principle of its own geopolitics – not to allow an alliance of the two largest powers of Eurasia. Moreover, by simultaneously exerting pressure on Russia and China, the United States rallied Moscow and Beijing even stronger. If earlier Russia opposed Washington alone, and China tried to come to an agreement with the United States, recently both countries are coordinating their actions in the American direction more and more.

Under these conditions, Trump is obviously trying to reconcile with Moscow and at least achieve its neutrality in the central conflict for the United States, but meets stubborn and effective opposition from the Democrats, according to whom Russia in 2016 stole a victory from Hillary Clinton.

Secondly, Trump’s reinstated topic of G8’s restoration resonated with Europe’s growing fears that the “loss of Russia” by the West is fraught with Europe’s future virtual neighborhood with Russia, if the eastern outpost of the western world Russia makes a geopolitical somersault and becomes the western bridgehead of the eastern world.

Europe never seriously sought to integrate Russia, well aware of the difficulties and the price of such an attempt, but she hoped that Russia would remain a buffer between the West and China. The rapprochement of Moscow and Beijing with the leading role of the latter overturns these hopes.

In addition, the recent termination of the INF Treaty is reviving the specter of a dangerous Russian-American confrontation in Europe. Therefore, playing the role of the EU’s political leader, French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to revive dialogue with Moscow, including by inviting Putin to France a few days before the G7 summit. Italy supports Trump’s “Russian” initiative.

Germany demonstrates a respectable equanimity, indicating that Moscow must first return the Donbass. London is predictably against, Macron is losing ground, but stresses Russia’s importance to the EU. However, all this is hardly decisive. Europe is worried, but can do little. Its influence on strategic and geopolitical issues today is much lower than even during the Cold War.

Moscow mistake

Finally, in Russia itself, Trump’s words aroused much more interest than they deserved. Not only high-ranking officials, but also Vladimir Putin found it necessary to publicly comment on them. The meaning of these comments was clear: if there is an official invitation, we are ready to consider it and return to a format that we ourselves have not left, and then work with partners on an equal footing, without any preconditions on their part.

Such an approach is diplomatically correct and outwardly attractive. Indeed, it can be imagined that the West has realized its mistake and is ready to return to the previous format of relations without any concessions from Moscow. The problem is that such a conclusion is fundamentally wrong. In this case, the word is silver, and silence is gold. It would be better for official Moscow to ignore Trump’s words,

There are enough reasons for this. Trump is a well-known master of his word: he both gives it and takes it away (just remember Putin’s failed meeting with him at the Argentinean “Twenty”). But Trump is not a complete master in his country.

Each meeting with Putin provokes Congress on new anti-Russian sanctions. In 2020, the Seven summit will be held in the United States, and the appearance of the Russian leader at the height of the presidential election campaign would once again mobilize Trump’s opponents to fight Russia. The presentation can be very interesting, but it will be expensive.

But even if we allow the incredible thing – the restoration of Russian membership in the coveted club, the result will be that Moscow will receive only one more platform for theatrical polemics with the collective West along with the UN Security Council, on which it, however, will not have a veto and where all decisions are vague and optional.

Russia is a big but lonely country. This is not a tragedy, but a fact. It took place a long time ago, it is self-sufficient, for her the main thing is to be, and not to belong to someone in Europe, Asia or on a global level. Membership in various clubs, even the most prestigious, does not determine Russian international identity.

A country’s status depends on its real abilities and capabilities, and not on an invitation from the US president. The Russian leadership has political will and as yet public support. The country has rich and valuable experience in world affairs and real instruments of power – both military and information, and not only.

Russia’s main weakness in the international arena is the economy, as well as a growing backlog in the technological sphere. And the fundamental problem of the country is the bad quality of a significant part of the governing elite, serving mainly itself.

Until this problem is resolved, until a truly national elite appears, Russia will act below its abilities – both in relations with other countries in the east and west, and in global forums such as the G20. This is what you need to think about. And Trump let yourself tweet on health.

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