The neocons used to regard Russia as the so-called ‘global evil’ and probably still hold such Russophobic beliefs but realized that the strategic dynamics of the New Cold War between the American and Chinese superpowers necessitate more pragmatic engagement with the Eurasian Great Power so as to focus on more aggressively ‘containing’ the East Asian one that the ‘deep state’ nowadays seems to regard as the more pressing ‘threat’.
Prominent neoconservatives Victoria Nuland and John Bolton recently surprised observers by pragmatically engaging with Russia. The first recently visited Moscow during a trip that Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described as providing “some elements of progress” after both sides supported the Minsk Accords’ bestowing of autonomy to Donbass and Politico subsequently reported that no new sanctions will be imposed against Nord Stream II. This prompted influential Russian expert Fyodor Lukyanov to optimistically opine for RT that “Biden’s bid to woo Moscow shows US is tired of conflict with Russia over Ukraine, and is more worried about war with China instead”. As for Bolton, he gave an exclusive interview to RT about a range of issues from COVID-19, Afghanistan, Iran, and Trump to Russian-Chinese relations.
These pragmatic engagements can be interpreted as a sign that Russian-American tensions might be thawing, however slowly. Nuland is infamous in Russia for her scandalous “fuck the EU” quip and handing out cookies during the 2014 spree of US-backed urban terrorism in Ukraine that’s popularly called “EuroMaidan”. Bolton, meanwhile, is one of the most notorious neoconservatives in recent memory who’s recently been embraced by anti-Trump members of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) after falling out with his former boss. Mr. Lukyanov’s assessment of Nuland’s motives appears to be accurate and aligns with the scenario forecast that I published at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) over the summer. Bolton’s sharp anti-Chinese remarks to RT, meanwhile, add further credence to this observation.
The neocons used to regard Russia as the so-called “global evil” and probably still hold such Russophobic beliefs but realized that the strategic dynamics of the New Cold War between the American and Chinese superpowers necessitate more pragmatic engagement with the Eurasian Great Power so as to focus on more aggressively “containing” the East Asian one that the “deep state” nowadays seems to regard as the more pressing “threat”. The optics of Nuland traveling to Moscow and Bolton giving an exclusive far-reaching interview with RT are that Russia is no longer “untouchable” for American officials like before. Trump-era officials wouldn’t have been able to do what Nuland and Bolton did without feeding into the fake news-driven Russiagate frenzy at the time, but the Biden Administration has considerably more leeway due to the Democrats’ Russophobic reputation.
This enables them to deflect any criticism of being “partial” to Russian interests as their country attempts to gradually reshape the geostrategic situation in Eurasia through their slow-moving efforts to responsibly regulate competition with Russia in order to concentrate more on China. This is precisely the strategy that Trump and his team wanted to pursue but was discredited for unrelated reasons connected to their domestic agenda which threatened to radically change the elites’ relationship with the American people. Those self-interested forces couldn’t openly acknowledge their fear of what Trump wanted to do lest they risk exposing their agenda and granting credibility to him, hence the Russiagate distraction instead. The Biden Administration aims to reinforce the same system that Trump wanted to change so there’s no longer any need to discredit this grand strategy.
Russia’s pragmatic reception of these neocons speaks to its non-ideological foreign policy which grants it maximum foreign policy flexibility in pursuit of its 21st-century vision to become the supreme balancing force in Eurasia. To be absolutely clear, Russia isn’t pro-US and anti-China, but understands the necessity of responsibly regulating its competition with the first while preemptively averting any potential disproportionate dependence on the second in the future. The improvement of relations with the US wouldn’t come at the expense of Russia’s strategic partnership with China, though the US still intends to exploit this dynamic in order to intensify its pressure on the People’s Republic in Eastern Eurasia after prospectively de-escalating tensions with Moscow in Western Eurasia.
Going forward, observers might expect Russian officials and publicly financed media to take a comparatively softer approach in their criticism in the US pending progress on their efforts to negotiate a so-called “non-aggression pact”. Critics, especially very passionate Non-Russian Pro-Russians (NRPRs) in the Alt-Media Community, might interpret this as an inexplicable “rehabilitation” of some of the most infamous neocons, but those who truly support Russia should understand its foreign policy prerogatives even if they don’t accept them (whether in whole or in part) for personal reasons. The “Great Media/Perception Reset” that might soon play out in Russia could seek to more compellingly articulate this dimension of the Eurasian Great Power’s balancing act and might take forms even more surprising than RT hosting Bolton, which nobody earlier expected.