The arrival of the new season has brought us a particularly agitated President of the United States. First he threatens Saudi Arabia to exclude it from US economic interests over the Jamal Khashoggi issue, then attacks Vladimir Putin accusing him of even being a killer, and without mincing words or other euphemisms. To this question asked by a journalist of ABC News: “Do you think Vladimir Putin is a murderer?”, Biden replies “Yes, I do”. And he displaces everyone. Even Putin himself, who did not find, in the immediate reaction, other words than those he used as a child when he played with his friends. “Who says it, he knows he is.” Putin responded with a touch of verbal judo, suggesting that Biden had really been describing himself: “We always see our own qualities in another person and think that they are like us”. “Be healthy,” Putin told the US president, emphasizing the words, “I wish you health.” It was an interesting choice of phrase for a leader accused of having his enemies poisoned.Later, Putin challenged Biden to some kind of Internet duel. And then he clearly acts according to protocol, recalling his ambassador from the United States to ask for clarification.
As if that were not enough, he quarrels with the representatives of his other strategic rival, the Chinese number one Xi Jinping. At the end of their March 18 meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, the clash is so high that there is no joint statement. The United States has let Putin free to act as he sees fit during the Trump era, China has strengthened economically to the point that last year, where the United States was in recession, it even registered economic growth.
Today Biden must restore the image of the United States and return his country to a position of power and control. With approximately 500,000 doses of the vaccine administered every day, the United States will be out of the pandemic very soon by the summer and ready, before Europe certainly, to revive its economy. Investments, awards will arrive and on the international scene the image will be rehabilitated. A game of marketing and politics. Attacking Putin personally, almost without reason, was not a diplomatic choice, but an attempt to raise his voice against the brutal cyber attack on US systems at the hands of the Russians that the new president obviously did not like, or to which more precisely he must show, to know how to answer in kind. Exactly. So what better opportunity to hit his rival if not when he seems to show signs of decay. Putin knows things at home do not look good. Putin’s approval rating, after crashing at the onset of the coronavirus crisis, remains around 65%. That might sound high, but in a country with heavily restricted media and politics, it’s not so reassuring. And, as Putin certainly realizes, the Kremlin has an image problem. In January, the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny — now jailed– released a video showing a palatial estate allegedly owned by Putin. (The Russian president denies owning it.) It has been viewed almost 115 million times. Record numbers of Russians say in polls that corruption is the country’s greatest problem.
All this suggests the depths to which US-Russia relations have sunk. This is a period full of tensions, there is the rush to the vaccine, if you don’t get busy, you remain excluded, or worse, you arrive last. Only the countries that will emerge first from the pandemic will be considered among the “new emerging”, the others only the marginalized who will not be able to dictate rules, but certainly yes.