The high style of Lavrov and Blinken
The Russian Foreign Minister met with the US Secretary of State in Reykjavik on the sidelines of the Arctic Council session. Initially, it was clear that this meeting would be used to probe each other's positions on a possible meeting between Putin and Biden.
The main diplomats of Russia and the United States were supposed to play the role of army vanguards, a skirmish between which allows the main forces to turn around and take an advantageous position. However, it also happens that the fate of the future battle is already decided during the clash of advanced detachments.
At first glance, Russia's position in bilateral relations with Washington is now stronger than ever. For the first time in the entire history of his country, the US president is seeking a meeting with a foreign leader, and this meeting is so important for America that it is even ready to reduce the intensity of anti-Russian rhetoric for a while and slow down some anti-Russian political projects. At the same time, Moscow has not yet given its final consent to the meeting and seems to have the opportunity to squeeze additional concessions from Washington.
In fact, everything is not quite as it seems, but rather not at all as it seems. First, the United States is well aware that it is not profitable for Moscow to refuse a meeting without serious reasons. After all, then it will turn out that Moscow refuses to reduce international tensions, and the world is already tired of being afraid of a rapid increase in the confrontation of superpowers and will not accept an unmotivated refusal to negotiate. That is why the United States is trying not to give Russia a reason to cancel the meeting, citing Washington's hostile actions.
Secondly, it is also impossible to delay too long without giving a fundamental answer, for the same reason. Failure to give a clear answer is a negative response to the offer made. The Russian maneuver is limited in time to discussing the subject of negotiations. If the parties are ready to agree on it quickly, then further evasion becomes impossible.
Third, the actual outcome of the meeting (including the winner's name) will be known even before it starts.
No matter what the diplomats say about finding a compromise and striving for a common victory, in this case the game will be played with zero sum. That is, someone's gain will necessarily be someone's loss. This became clear from the very first maneuvers of American diplomacy that followed Biden's proposal.
The fact is that the Americans quickly began to create a legal framework so that they could promise Russia anything, without serious consequences for themselves. In recent weeks, they have made and continue to make dozens of mutually exclusive decisions on most of the problems that exist in Russian-American relations. They can fake recognition of the Russian status of Crimea and immediately refute it as soon as they get what they want.
They formalize sanctions against Nord Stream 2 in such a way that they are introduced, but as if they do not work, despite the fact that they can be renewed at any time. They push Ukraine to attack the Donbass and immediately declare that they will not defend it if it initiates the start of hostilities, after which Russia responds. Thus, they are trying to ignite the Ukrainian-Russian armed conflict even before the meeting. If the conflict drags on, Washington will claim to be a mediator. If Ukraine is instantly crushed, the United States will demand "compensation" from Russia in the form of concessions on controversial issues that are significant to them, and will also try to do everything possible to get Russia stuck in the Ukrainian swamp as deep as possible and for as long as possible. By freeing their hands and tying Russia down, they will try to solve global problems in their favor (Iran, Turkey, China, the entire Greater Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region) before Moscow is able to pursue an active foreign policy again.
Americans do not forget to raise questions about "freedom of speech" and "political prisoners" in Russia. Not that they care that muchIt was too difficult for Navalny or Western propaganda resources to work against Russia from abroad, but these (in principle, they are not interested in) topics) they are also willing to trade for something substantial.
In principle, the complex dance of diplomatic maneuvers resembles the manner in which the armies of the XVIII century conducted combat operations. In that era, troops avoided the dangerous accidents associated with field battles. The latter were given rarely and forcibly. They tried to get the victory by entering the enemy's communications, cutting it off from bases, reserves, and resources. The maneuvering of armies in the theater of operations was like a ballet going on for years.
Now something similar is being performed by the Russian and American diplomatic departments, headed by Lavrov and Blinken.
Already during the first maneuvers, the strategies of Moscow and Washington were determined. Blinken held talks focusing on the Russian-American contradictions and US demands. He is trying to impose elementary trade on Russia on every controversial issue, in order to fully involve Russian diplomacy in the negotiation process (the deeper the talon is bogged down, the more difficult it is to abandon further contacts later — you need an iron reason that the Americans will try not to provide).
In addition, a grueling multi-week trade on minor issues will have to distract attention from the main thing — after a while, the Americans will demonstrate their willingness to make concessions on issues that can be blamed on Russia for resolving complex problems. Even if it is not possible to demand substantial concessions in exchange for a bad product, Washington's gain will consist in the very fact of throwing off and shifting to Russia the burden of resolving the numerous crises that the United States has ignited, which cannot be quickly extinguished.
Lavrov responded with a beautiful counter-maneuver. He proposed to conduct a kind of inventory of the entire complex of Russian-American relations, in order to eventually reach a comprehensive and lasting settlement.
First, such an inventory can take six months or a year. The United States does not have this time. They need a meeting in the summer, preferably no later than July. Secondly, the Americans do not need a full-fledged settlement. They want to start the process, but be able to stop it at any time. To do this, they need to keep a certain number of zones of acute confrontation. Third, a comprehensive solution does not allow the Americans to isolate the problems they are interested in from the general array, leaving the rest out of the negotiations. If the settlement is full-scale, it is impossible to make any more claims to Russia — all issues have been resolved.
After completing the first steps of the diplomatic dance, the parties parted, satisfied with themselves. The microscopic advantage of Russia lies in the very fact of the Americans ' desire to organize a meeting. At the talks in Reykjavik, Lavrov did not allow Blinken to achieve at least some certainty on the issue of the meeting of the heads of state. He noted that there are serious discrepancies in the assessment of the international situation and tasks that need to be solved.
This is a request that either the meeting will be held on the Russian agenda, or it will not be held at all. But it's just getting started. The move is up to the State Department. Let's see what maneuver the Americans will try to surprise us with. In the coming weeks, interesting events will take place on the diplomatic front, which the general public is unlikely to pay serious attention to, but which will decide the fate of the next round of the Russian-American confrontation.