By Huang He and Deng Xianlai
Russia and the US started a new round of strategic stability dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland on January 10. It can be seen that there is no substantial progress based on the information released by the two sides after the meeting.
Analysts believe that the hosting of this dialogue indicates that Russia is willing to establish a longer-term security cooperation architecture with Western countries led by the US. The reason why it is difficult to make progress in the dialogue is that the US has failed to respond positively to a series of security concerns raised by Russia. The prospects for the future Russia-US dialogue can hardly be optimistic if these problems cannot be effectively resolved.
Hard to reach consensus
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said after the dialogue that Russia's core security concerns lay in NATO's promise not to expand further East, not to deploy strike weapons on the Russian border, and to restore NATO's military deployment to the state when Russia and NATO signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997. However, Russia didn't think the US is willing to make satisfactory decisions on these key issues.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, head of the US delegation, said after the dialogue that the US rejected a series of security proposals put forward by Russia, including the requirement that NATO not admit Ukraine as a member state and terminate security cooperation with Ukraine as the relevant proposals are contrary to NATO's "Open Door" policy. She also pointed out that the US welcomes a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian issue, but only when Russia takes concrete steps to reduce tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border can the Ukrainian issue make real progress.
Fyodor A. Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, said that no breakthrough has been made in the Russia-US security dialogue because there are fundamental differences in the negotiation thinking between the two sides. The US wants to shift the focus of security talks from political issues to military technologies while Russia insists on keeping dialogues at the political level, including discussions on security principles and the post-Cold War European security architecture. Russia believes that a new basic agreement should be reached in the political field first, and then specific consultations at the military and technical level can be carried out.
Prospects not promising
According to the plan, Russia will hold talks with the US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) respectively this week. Public opinions generally believe that the Russia-US security dialogue is the most critical one and will set the tone for the next two dialogues. The Russia-NATO dialogue can be regarded as an expanded version of the Russia-US security dialogue, while the Russia-OSCE dialogue aims to discuss the future security prospects of Europe on a larger scale.
Analysts pointed out that this dialogue will help stabilize Russia-US relations. However, due to the lack of strategic mutual trust between Russia and Western countries, as well as multiple factors, it is difficult to fundamentally improve the conflict between Russia and Western countries. Although the parties are conducting intensive dialogues, it is difficult to solve the contradictions in the short term, and the political game between them will continue.
On the one hand, Western countries have different attitudes towards Russia. Ivan Timofeev, director of programs at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), said that the positions of the parties involved in the dialogue are different and difficult to coordinate, and the dialogue process may be very difficult. Negotiations on European security issues will be a long process and cannot be done overnight.
On the other hand, domestic political differences in the US also make it difficult for the US to reach an agreement with Russia on security issues. Alan Cafruny, professor at Hamilton College in the US, said that the unstable political situation in the US actually leaves very limited space for its diplomatic activities. Even if a US government delegation agrees to a security deal with Russia and persuades its allies to get involved, the document could not be approved by the US Senate.
Li Yonghui, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that the core of Russia-West relations is still Russia-US relations. If the fundamental contradiction between Russia and the US cannot be resolved through dialogue and negotiation, it will be difficult to improve the relations substantially.
Alexey Mukhin, director general of the Centre for Political Information of Russia, said that the US needs to reach a security agreement with Russia, but it will not give a clear answer as soon as the Russian side hopes, because that means the US needs to give up the transition period of public opinion and immediately "succumb to" Russia's request openly.