This page features the weekly news and analysis digests compiled by Russia Matters. Explore them by clicking "Read More" below the current week's highlights and subscribe using the subscribe links throughout the site, like the one below, to receive our digests via email. Past digests are available in the News Archive, which is accessible via the link on this page.

This Week’s Highlights

  • During his June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden plans to personally press the Russian leader to expand the distribution of aid into Syria, according to Foreign Policy. Meanwhile, Biden said he would deliver a clear message to Putin: "We're not seeking conflict with Russia,” while also defending democratic values, according to reports by RFE/RL and The Washington Post. In his turn, Putin said he will discuss with Biden strategic stability and arms control, international conflicts, fighting terrorism, the pandemic and the environment, but not Belarus, The New York Times reported.
  • Days after Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia would send “unpleasant signals” to the United States ahead of the Biden-Putin summit, Moscow announced its. denunciation of a 1992 US-Russian memorandum on "open lands," which allowed diplomats to travel without seeking permission and abolished most so-called closed areas, Kommersant reported.
  • During their summit in the United Kingdom, G7 leaders are set to call for “stable and predictable relations” with Russia but also for it to stop its “destabilizing behavior and malign activities,” according to a draft communique from Group of Seven leaders seen by Bloomberg. During his subsequent meeting with NATO allies on June 13, President Biden is expected to press the alliance to do more to counter the rising threat from China, while still deterring the menace from Russia, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley believes the biggest threats the United States faces are China and Russia, US News & World Report, reported. "Combined, the Russian and Chinese budgets exceed our budgets if all the cards are put on the table," he noted in quotes carried by VOA.
  • When asked “If one day an armed conflict between China and the United States happens, what position would Russia take?” Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said in an interview: “I am convinced that there will be no armed conflict between China and the United States, … however, if you are asking about the judgment of the international situation, then Russia's position is clearly much closer to China's,” Global Times reported.
  • Russia’s trade with the United States was up 15.7% in January-April, elevating America to the rank of Russia’s fourth largest trading partner outside of the former Soviet Union in that period, behind China, Germany and the Netherlands, according to Russia’s customs service, according to Interfax.
  • The barred U.S. ambassador to Belarus, Julie Fisher, called Belarus the “North Korea of Europe” in testimony before a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on June 9, bne IntelliNews reported.
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This Week’s Highlights

If the U.S.-Russian summit takes place, Biden’s goal should be to stabilize a relationship at risk of dangerous escalation, writes Matthew Rojansky, director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute. The summit could be the first step in establishing a strategic-stability dialogue on nuclear, cyber and other threats, direct military-to-military crisis-management channels and restored on-the-ground embassy and consular capacities, he argues. Far from a reward to Putin for Russia’s destabilizing behavior, this kind of diplomacy will help to contain and deter future aggression, Rojansky writes. 

Expectations for the Putin-Biden summit are rightly low, but the stakes are high, writes Michael Kimmage, a history professor at the Catholic University of America. Russia and the West are sleepwalking toward the abyss, he argues, adding that Biden’s mandate in Geneva should be to begin the arduous journey toward predictability and stability.

It’s time for Americans to recover their critical faculties when they hear “NATO,” writes Stephen Wertheim, director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, saying that the military alliance cements European division, bombs the Middle East, burdens the United States and risks great-power war. America’s European allies can handle self-defense, he argues, adding that Russia lacks the capability to overrun Europe, supposing it had any reason to try.

Washington's underlying objective during Biden’s European visit should be to foster among Europeans a sense of ownership of their security challenges, write Pierre Morcos and Olivier Rémy-Bel, visiting fellows at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council, respectively.

In a first-of-its kind U.S.-Russian exploratory paper, the authors argue that, while a binding bilateral cyber agreement is not possible now, Moscow and Washington must engage in various dialogues and well thought-out confidence-building measures and should strive toward a much better understanding of one another’s red lines (i.e., what actions would trigger retaliation, especially kinetic retaliation, in response to cyber operations). The American perspective is described by Belfer Center Cyber Project director Lauren Zabierek and her coauthors, Christie Lawrence and Miles Neumann, and the Russian perspective by Pavel Sharikov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies and Moscow State University.

The cyber-nuclear nexus is an enormously important issue but also an exceptionally difficult one to manage, writes James Acton, co-director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nuclear Policy Program. Though subject matter is heavily classified, Russia and the United States should discuss how to manage the cyber-nuclear interaction, he writes. Presidents Biden and Putin should flag this as a topic to be covered in strategic stability talks, and should then have their own bureaucracies prepare for those talks and work out what they could actually say to make those talks productive, Acton argues.   

NATO and EU members should continue to support Georgia and Ukraine politically, financially and, to a limited extent, militarily, but they must also leverage the implementation of reforms that the countries have formally committed to but which remain long overdue, writes Henrik B. L. Larsen, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia remains a distant aspiration, he writes, arguing that in the meantime, Ukraine and Georgia, with NATO’s help, need to focus on improving the resilience of their defense forces. 

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