How does Russia see the USA

Russia is raging over the United States, fueling war fears - and still feels flattered by Biden

The Kremlin deported American diplomats, imposed entry bans on two ministers and maintained the threats in Ukraine. But Russia hopes a summit with President Biden will finally be taken seriously again.

The rate of the ruble against the major world currencies is like a seismograph. In these weeks the rashes are particularly noticeable again, and they primarily affect relations with the United States. When American President Joe Biden phoned Kremlin Lord Vladimir Putin and suggested that they meet soon, the ruble gained strength. It seemed as if the danger of war in Ukraine had suddenly decreased because Putin finally felt that he was being taken seriously.

The reports of imminent sanctions against Moscow caused the temperature curve to rise again, but only briefly: Biden's lash was less violent than had been feared. Nevertheless, politicians and the foreign ministry raged, while the Kremlin remained decidedly calm. The troop deployment along the borders with Ukraine, which has been reinterpreted as maneuvers, has lost none of its threat.

America's ambassador is de facto undesirable

Biden punishes Russia with sanctions and tries to move the Kremlin to change its political course. Although he also emphasizes the need for stable relations with Russia and, to the satisfaction of Russian observers, seems to recognize Moscow's role as a great power, this calculation does not quite work out: Russia rejects all allegations and, under the pressure of sanctions, sees itself even more compelled to adopt its own strength to demonstrate.

On Friday evening, Putin's foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, informed the American ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, of the first Russian responses. The most important: Sullivan was "recommended" to return to Washington for consultations. That comes close to expelling the ambassador. Ten American diplomats are also deported, Justice Minister Merrick Garland and Alejandro Mayorkas, Minister for Domestic Security, are being banned from entering the country - and the US diplomatic missions in Russia are no longer allowed to employ non-American personnel.

The Kremlin will not get very far with a simple, mirror-image answer to the sanctions; Russia's economic threat potential is too low for that. Foreign Minister Lavrov threatened that Moscow had painful steps up its sleeve against American companies.

From Moscow's point of view, only those who can spread fear enjoy respect and appreciation. Russia's development of military capacities on the western and southern borders towards Ukraine and the Black Sea is therefore more than an accompanying concert. As long as the Americans try to conduct the dialogue from a position of strength, Russia will triumph with its own resources. The military muscle game and the willingness to go to war, which has been shown several times in the past few years - in Ukraine and Syria - is Russia's most convincing argument at the moment. Putin is very interested in a serious, face-to-face encounter with Biden. Lavrov confirmed this on Friday evening.

Dispute over the Kerch Strait

The question of the extent to which the Kremlin will actually allow a war - which may degenerate into a wildfire - has not yet found a clear answer. “Logic” alone is not enough, because the Russian leadership has often assumed a different logic than its observers. It is often assumed that Russia is speculating on a miscalculation on the Ukrainian side.

The latest volte of the Russian Defense Ministry is as threatening as it is provocative: On Thursday, it became known that extensive coastal areas of the Black Sea and the passage through the Kerch Strait, which separates the Crimean peninsula from the Russian mainland, which was annexed in 2014, would be open to foreign warships until the end of October blocked for maneuvers.

This provoked loud protests from Ukraine. The closure is extremely problematic under international law and means that the Sea of ​​Azov with the Ukrainian coastal cities of Berdyansk and Mariupol is no longer freely accessible to the Ukrainian Navy. That would make it easier for Russia to conquer these coastal stretches of the continent mentioned scenario in order to obtain a land bridge to Crimea and also to restore the interrupted water supply to the peninsula via the Crimean Canal. A pincer attack in eastern Ukraine from the water and from the land would also be easier.

Propaganda in full swing

Every day there is talk of military exercises on the Black Sea, but also on military training areas in Crimea and in south-western Russia. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the highest number of violations of the ceasefire this year was recorded on Thursday along the front line in Donbass. Russian propaganda is in full swing. It paints the picture of bellicose, ostensibly “fascist” Ukrainian politics, which is under the thumb of the Americans.

The editor-in-chief of the Russian foreign broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan, who understands journalism as a kind of warfare by other means, immediately linked the American sanctions with her demand to "bring the Donbass home". In official diction, the Russian troop deployment is merely a reaction to the threat posed by NATO. For years the population has been taught that war is threatening from the West.

But turning the fear of a war into euphoria about an actual military action is difficult to imagine in a tired, disaffected society. However, Putin is unlikely to be impressed by appeals from Paris on Friday about the deliberations between Presidents Macron and Selenski and Chancellor Merkel. In the military test of power with the West, he is concerned with two things: recognition as a power factor in Europe and the breaking of Ukraine, this stubborn neighbor.