Before talking to Putin: “Biden’s message should have arrived”


Status: 07.12.2021 04:48 a.m.

US President Biden has declared his support for Ukraine unusually clear, says security expert Overhaus. An escalation in the region is not in Biden’s interest – also for domestic political reasons. The US government warns Russia against an invasion of Ukraine and reiterates its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. What does this mean in practice – how far does the US support Ukraine?

Marco Overhaus: In terms of rhetoric, it goes extremely far when you consider that Ukraine is not a NATO state and that there are no formal NATO commitments to provide assistance to Ukraine. What this support means in concrete terms has not yet been spelled out, the Biden administration is still keeping a low profile here – certainly so as not to add more fuel to the fire. There is often talk of possible further economic sanctions, an expansion of NATO’s military presence in the Eastern Allies, and a deepening of the security partnership with Ukraine. But there is no concrete information on this yet.

To person

Dr. Marco Overhaus works for the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin. In the America research group, security and defense policy is one of his priorities.

A commitment with an impact So is the commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine more than a matter of course?

Overhaus: Biden’s explanation cannot be taken for granted. In the security business, that’s a very clear commitment. Although it is below the threshold that exists in relation to the NATO countries, the message is still clear. And this message should have reached Russia. But it also fuels the Russian threat perception. Russia argues that security cooperation between the US and Ukraine has become closer and closer and that this must be countered. On the other hand, one must also see that the Russian annexation of Crimea and the military interference in Donbass fueled fears in Ukraine and fueled even closer ties to NATO and the USA.

“Blurring the Lines” Ukraine wants to join NATO, but the alliance does not accept a country that is involved in a regional conflict. On the other hand, NATO countries supply Ukraine with armaments. Isn’t that like gradual accession?

Overhaus: I don’t think it’s a precursor to membership; The resolutions of the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 continue to apply. At that time, membership was promised – and then postponed indefinitely. However, the boundaries between NATO members and the non-NATO member Ukraine are becoming more fluid. Security relations are being strengthened, and statements of support from NATO countries towards Ukraine are being formulated more clearly. But Ukraine is still a long way from becoming a NATO member.

Domestic political goals endangered? What would the US do in the event of an invasion? Can you then still react adequately?

Overhaus: With its clear commitment to the security of Ukraine, the Biden administration has put itself under pressure to act. At the same time, it can be seen that Biden is trying to prevent further escalation in Ukraine. An escalation is not in Biden’s interest, and certainly not a war between NATO and Russia. Biden’s agenda is primarily determined domestically. Goals such as building the infrastructure, the social package, securing and increasing the prosperity of the middle class would be all the more at risk if a war broke out in Eastern Europe, which would also involve the USA.

“There is still a lot of consensus work to be done” In the end, Biden’s statements also concern NATO and the EU. Is there a consensus here?

Overhaus: It will be important that the US, NATO countries and the EU act in concert to jointly define what price Russia would have to pay in the event of further military escalation in eastern Ukraine. This is where the new federal government is called upon. On an abstract level, there is certainly agreement that Russia must be shown clear borders. And that further military aggression is unacceptable. But if it does come to an aggression or if Russia continues to test the EU or NATO with a view to the Baltic States, Belarus or Poland, one has to agree: What costs would we be willing to impose on Russia? There is still a lot of consensus work to be done when it comes to economic and political costs.

Biden’s long-term Russia strategy When Biden and Putin met in Geneva months ago, there was hope of a fresh start in US-Russian relations. What’s left of it?

Overhaus: Relations between the United States and Russia have been in a deep valley for more than ten years. There are different reasons for this. It is because of the unclear status of Ukraine and Georgia, it has something to do with Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, it is the Navalny case or the hacker attacks on US companies. However, the interests of the USA go well beyond Ukraine. Under the heading of “strategic stability”, Biden is also concerned with finding a common denominator with Russia in disarmament talks and not only extending New START, but adapting it. And the China factor is very important. Biden has no interest in the partnership between Russia and China deepening. For this reason, the ongoing dialogue is also in the German and European interests. Ukraine is only one factor in this mix – albeit an important one.

The interview was conducted by Eckart Aretz,

source site