The Biden-Putin summit and hotel diplomacy
International Geneva is in turmoil with the announcement of a Biden-Putin summit during Joe Biden’s first trip out of the United States as president. But is the Swiss city as attractive as it once was on the international scene?
This content was published on May 28, 2021 – 14:40
After the G-7 meetings in Cornwall, and NATO and the European Union in Brussels, Biden will travel to the town of Calvin in mid-June to meet with the Russian president. The excitement of Geneva brings back memories of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1985, considered a major milestone in the end of the Cold War. (I hope this does not remind of Hillary Clinton-Lavrov’s reset button failure in Geneva in 2009.) It is also a major victory for Geneva’s reputation as the Rome of multilateralism and neutrality. history of Switzerland.
What is the significance of this summit? For Americans, according to the White House, this will restore some degree of predictability and stability to the strained bilateral relationship. For the Russians, according to the Kremlin, this will be an opportunity to take stock of the pandemic and various regional conflicts. Not exactly the importance of the Reagan-Gorbachev discussion on nuclear weapon reduction or the end of the Cold War. But an improvement over Biden calling Putin a killer in response to a reporter’s question.
What could be on the agenda? Following Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov last week on the Arctic, a serious deal on climate change would be a major step forward. More sensitive would be the discussions on the strengthening of Russia on the eastern border of Ukraine, its takeover of Crimea, its electoral interference in the 2016 US presidential election, the SolarWinds cyberattack, the dissident’s situation. Alexi Navalny or the Belarusian hijacking of the skies and the arrest of their dissident as well as the American claim of Russian bounty offers on the murder of American troops in Afghanistan. This long list could also include Russia’s role in Syria or possible support for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma.
From Biden’s perspective, I’m sure he would rather be back in Washington to focus on national issues like the infrastructure package. While his attendance at G-7, NATO and EU meetings was expected, meeting the Russian president takes time and energy compared to the president’s self-proclaimed pandemic and economic priorities. . Will this summit increase its prestige enough to help its national agenda? As with the Israeli crisis, the American president cannot ignore international realities.
And while he has been more than dramatic in many of his national proposals, and has overturned many of Donald Trump’s policies at home and abroad, there has been no major policy shift in foreign affairs. It would be surprising for anything dramatic to emerge from these talks.
As for Putin, he will want to take advantage of the summit to position himself again as a key player in world politics.
What should also be noted is that just as the Swiss were getting angry at the idea of having the summit in Geneva, they announced that they were canceling negotiations with the European Union after 15 years of unsuccessful search for a bilateral institutional agreement. Switzerland is the EU’s fourth largest trading partner after China, the United States and the United Kingdom. Not bad for a country of only 8 million inhabitants. In other words, the pride in having a bilateral dialogue between two of the world’s superpowers in Geneva came just as the Swiss decided to stop negotiating with their main trading partner.
Switzerland prides itself on being diplomatic above its weight. Geneva is the seat of many international organizations. It has hosted many summits and important diplomatic negotiations. But, as the failed negotiations with the EU show, hosting a summit is not the same as having a contribution to the content of the negotiations. Hotel diplomacy should be more than ensuring security and hospitality are provided. It is no small feat, but quite different to participate actively in the negotiations as an equal partner.
So, while Switzerland is in turmoil with the announcement of the next summit and its reputation for world-class hospitality, neutrality and security is brought to the fore globally, the failure of its current diplomacy will fail. can be ignored. The paradox of glorification in the choice of Geneva as the site of an important summit cannot erase the failure of 15 years of negotiations with its biggest trading partner.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of swissinfo.ch.
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