Staunton, July 22 – During the Cold War, the United States served as the leader of the free world with both that leadership and that concept defining how Washington and its partners approached and ultimately defeated the Soviet Union. But now, despite Joe Biden’s re-invocation of that terminology, there are doubts about both its aspects, Andrey Piontkovsky says.
The US-based Russian commentator says that “the entire second half of the 20th century, there was someone in the Oval Office whom the entire world and, what is more important, who himself conceived him to be the leader of the West and the leader of the Free World” (echo.msk.ru/blog/piontkovsky_a/2877040-echo/).
But that “symbolic seat” has been empty “already for more than 20 years” given that “neither President Obama nor President Trump felt themselves the leader” of either, Obama because of his view of Western guilt and Trump on the contrary because he did not feel that America’s allies were paying their way.
Now President Biden is insisting that “America is back” and in Cincinnati, he declared that when he met with Vladimir Putin he felt himself to be “’the leader of the free world’” and that that position means that the Kremlin leader must take his words at face value and recognize that he can and will do what he says.
That would be a remarkable development if it were true in the sense Biden means it, Piontkovsky says. But his Russian counterpart “perfectly understands who Mr. Biden is and what Mr. Biden can do.” He knows that Biden will rhetorically support Ukraine but insist that Ukraine follow the Minsk Accords which are designed to destroy Ukraine.
He said the first in his meeting with Putin, and he said the second in his press conference immediately afterwards, leading any number of American commentators to observe that Putin “’got exactly what he wanted from Biden in Geneva.’” For Putin, words don’t matter nearly as much as actions; and in this case, Biden opened the way for new Russian aggression.
According to Piontkovsky, the events of the month since that meeting only confirm that conclusion, with the “openly anti-Ukrainian pact” agreed to by Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel which effectively calls for “the Finlandization” of Ukraine for the convenience of both the West and Russia as well.
Ukrainians aren’t going to accept this, but they also are not going to get the support they have expected from the free world and its leader, the Russian commentator says. In this context, Biden’s words in Cincinnati are ones that Putin will be glad to hear. After all, they indicate that the US leader will say the right things but won’t back them up.
That is the best arrangement the Kremlin leader could in fact hope for, Piontkovsky says.