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Thursday, May 20, 2021
The Latest Changes in International Geopolitics
ANBOUND

On the 19th of May, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. This marks the first high-level face-to-face discussion between the United States and Russia after U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The meeting also serves as a unique window for observing the current complex geopolitical situation.

Both the United States and Russia expressed their intention of cooperating during the meeting. U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said that it was "no secret that we (i.e., the U.S. and Russia) have our differences", but the world would be safer if the leaders of the two countries were to work together. Blinken also stated that President Biden hopes to establish "a predictable and stable relationship with Russia". Lavrov on the other hand, stated that while Russia and the United States do indeed have "serious differences", it will still cooperate "in spheres where our interests collide". He said after the meeting that the talk was "constructive" and that Russia was ready to discuss all issues between the two countries "on the basis of mutual respect".

Another important purpose of this meeting between senior U.S. and Russian officials is to pave the way for the meeting between President Biden and Vladimir Putin in June this year. On the 13th of April, President Biden had a telephone conversation with the Russian President to discuss the status quo of U.S.-Russia relations and current issues on the international agenda. Biden later stated that he expected to meet President Putin during the G7 meeting in June, expressing his hope that the two countries will be able to establish "stable and predictable" ties on pressing issues such as strategic stability and arms control, Iran's nuclear program, the situation in Afghanistan, and global climate change. At the same time, he proposed holding a U.S.-Russia leader summit in the foreseeable future.

The interaction between the United States and Russia occurred under the backdrop of intense geopolitical frictions. The two countries were at one of the lowest recorded points in history and being tough on Russia has become mandatory in Biden's "political correctness". In fact, since the Biden administration came to power, although the United States and Russia have achieved a limited cooperation in the field of arms control, differences have been obvious and confrontations have intensified regarding issues such as Ukraine, cyber security, human rights and election interference. It is as the Vice Chairman of the Russian Federal Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said, in recent years U.S.-Russia relationship has gone from competitive to confrontational, essentially returning to that of the Cold War era.

While the United States and Russia have strengthened their interaction, the U.S. has also extended its olive branch to Germany. According to the news site Axios, the Biden administration intends to waive the sanctions imposed on the company responsible for the Nord Stream II pipeline during the Trump administration. At the same time, it also intends to remove the relevant sanctions on Matthias Warnig, Putin's ally and CEO of the Nord Stream II pipeline company. Nord Stream II is a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany through the bottom of the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine, Poland and other countries, transporting Russian natural gas to Germany and then to the rest of Europe. This project will double Russia's natural gas exports to Germany, and at the same time strengthen the energy relations between European countries, especially Germany, with Russia.

The U.S. government has expressed continuous and strong resentment towards the Nord Stream II pipeline in the past. During the Trump administration, the United States imposed sanctions on the Nord Stream II, and this has naturally resulted in dissatisfaction in both Germany and Russia. Germany, an important ally of the United States in Europe, believed that the United States has intervened in its vital energy autonomy. The combination of Germany's dissatisfaction and France's view of strengthening European strategic autonomy has caused a rupture in the relationship between the United States and Europe. However, ANBOUND's researchers have pointed out that during the December of 2020, the Biden administration which was already preparing to prioritize improving relations with allied countries after the change of the U.S. leadership, intended to loosen its interventions on the Nord Stream II. It now appears that the Biden administration really means to follow through on their word.

Through sanctions against Germany, the U.S. government have created "strategic bargaining chips" and now it has given Germany a "present" by waiving some of those sanctions. Since then, the tense relationship between the United States and Russia is expected to improve. As Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said, if the United States exempts sanctions on companies responsible for the Nord Stream II pipeline, it would help to normalize relations between the two countries. The improved relations with European countries will also help the United States and Europe to rebuild transatlantic relations. These latest changes on the international geopolitical stage are not "good news" for China, as the improvement of the U.S.' relations with Russia and European countries will enable it to target China more systematically in the geopolitical games.

Final analysis conclusion:

The United States has taken the initiative to improve its relations with Russia and reassure Germany by exempting the sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline. These changes themselves constitute the evolution of the geopolitical landscape, which will bring considerable changes to the international environment that China has to face, potentially even affecting Europe's final review of the China-EU Investment Agreement.

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