We had mentioned that U.S. President Joe Biden’s approach toward his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Geneva Summit had been met with ire in both Washington and the anti-Russian hawks in Europe. Biden had tried to defend his approach by saying that the purpose of the summit was to maintain a stable and predictable relationship with Moscow. In line with the decisions at the summit, the U.S.’s ambassador to Russia returned to Moscow, and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. trotted back to Washington. However, eastern and central European countries at loggerheads with Russia, particularly Ukraine and Poland, are indignant that Joe Biden rewarded Putin.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which were part of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, are now both NATO and EU members. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria were also members of the Warsaw Pact established by the Soviet Union against NATO. These countries, which are former satellites of Moscow, are also members of the EU and NATO. The fact that these countries joined NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union has always been a sore spot for Russia.
After Biden’s alleged treachery, the second blow to eastern and central European countries came from France and Germany. These countries now want the EU to hold a summit with Putin. This suggestion is particularly bugging the countries with a Russian phobia, namely Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These countries do not take kindly to attempts by the EU or the U.S. to establish a dialogue with Putin without a positive change in Russia's behavior. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, making a clear reference to Paris and Berlin, said: “We all agreed that Russia is a big threat. I'm really keen to listen to the colleague’s argumentation. I personally think it’s not the time to have such summits.” She added that she could not comprehend the sharp swerve in the attitude of Paris and Berlin toward Russia. Likewise, according to the Latvian administration, the "Russia Summit" suggested by Germany and France offers Putin an unrequited concession.
Just like in the Cold War era, in a world which is being divided into new borders, the U.S. wants to show its Western allies that the real boss here is Washington. However, France and Germany strictly object. French President Emmanuel Macron said: NATO is an organization concerning the Northern Atlantic. China is not in the North Atlantic. Macron also highlighted that relations with China should not based on biases. Germany and France do not want to view Russia and China from the window of the U.S. Both countries seemed determined to talk to Putin directly, and not through Washington. Merkel may have quit the leadership of the Christian Democrat Party, but her views are prevalent. The party’s new leader, Armin Laschet announced that he would follow in his predecessor’s footsteps.
On the other hand, France and Germany’s pursuit for an alternative military structure independent from NATO to ensure Europe’s security is giving the U.S. a stomachache. Both Democrats and Republicans are balking at Europe’s pursuit for defense outside of NATO. This debate isn’t something new. In October 2003, the U.S.’s NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns branded the EU’s development plan for an independent military capacity as one of the biggest threats for the “Transatlantic community.” Former U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, a known neocon, described the EU's quest for autonomy for European defense as a dagger stuck in the heart of NATO.
The U.S. and France and Germany, the two leader countries of the EU, want bygones to be bygones and to reset relations with Russia to kickstart a new era in ties with Moscow. Both parties want the same thing, but for different reasons. However, the search for new relations with Russia has led to fierce debates, both in the U.S. and in Europe. With the exception of Hungary, there is a serious rift between the Eastern and Central European countries and the Western European countries led by France and Germany concerning "European defense and Russia."