MEPs: US-Russia talks caused confusion, mixed messages
Two Estonian MEPs have hit out at the recent summit between United States President Joe Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, calling the messages arising from the meeting's content confusing, the manner in which it was held counter-productive and the very fact of it something of a capitulation on Biden's part.
The MEPs, Urmas Paet (Reform) and Riho Terras (Isamaa) appeared on a Postimees webcast, with Terras, former commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) said:" First of all, this conversation took place in an atmosphere which I think was too 'fun'. When you talk to a dictator, you should not be creating a favorable and positive mood."
Terras added that mixed messages had followed the meeting, which took place last Tuesday.
He said: "As of today, Putin showed that he is happy with all the confusion that is going on. He announced that there has been an outright genocide going on in Ukraine, committed by Ukrainians, in Donetsk," referring to an eastern region of that country, one with a large Russian-speaking populace and the scene of ongoing insurgency fighting for over seven years.
Biden gave Putin exactly what he wanted, by escalating the situation in Europe, the Isamaa MEP added. "He has been wanting to be taken seriously, to be invited to the table and to be talked to. In fact, Putin was not a head of state that western leaders were keen to talk to before now."
While the talks went ahead in any case, tactically, they were a blunder, from Biden's side, Terras added, in treating the Russian leader and his demands as co-equal with those of the U.S. and NATO.
The confusion was also fueled by the short notice at which the meeting was made public, he added.
Urmas Paet, a former foreign minister, asked of the tete-a-tete and its interface with a proposed NATO-Russia summit: "What exactly does it mean? What is the format of the upcoming meeting? True, there are other formats than the NATO context," adding that the situation in Ukraine has also been addressed internationally since 2014 in the Normandy format, which involves a smaller circle of nations.
Paet said: "Whereas it is being stated that this time things should be discussed within the context of NATO, the course of events so far has in fact been quite the opposite in terms of the logic of preparing for such a meeting."
Only four NATO allies - Germany, France, the U.K. and Italy - would be attending the planned new summit, Terras added, criticizing the idea of talks on Ukraine going on without involving Ukraine itself.
Paet said that the Biden-Putin meeting had been the second unpleasant surprise for NATO allies since Biden entered office in January, the first being the hurried and confused withdrawal from Afghanistan.
At the same time, talks with Russia should always be preceded by careful forethought, Paet added – something which the U.S. is in a position to be able to do, he said.
Holding direct talks with Russia, too, can always go ahead, he added, but must be done in the correct sequence, and with discussion on who the leading figure or figures in the discussions may be – including potentially NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Two days after his video-linked conversation with Putin, Biden spoke to leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9) states – including Estonia – though the proposed summit was not mentioned, Estonia's president, Alar Karis, says.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte