Secretary of State Tony Blinken is calling on Russia to cooperate with the Biden administration to help make the world “safer,” though Democrats spent years accusing former President Donald Trump of illegally “colluding” with Moscow ahead of the 2016 election and regularly chastised him for seeking a better relationship with the nuclear-armed global power.
In his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Wednesday, which took place on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meetings in Reykjavik, Iceland, Blinken said that while there are areas of disagreement between both countries, there are also issues where interests between Washington and Moscow overlap.
“It’s also no secret that we have our differences. And when it comes to those differences, as President Biden has also shared with President Putin, if Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we’ll respond,” Blinken told reporters, adding that the U.S. would like to establish “a predictable, stable relationship with Russia.”
“Whether it is dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic, combating climate change, dealing with the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan, there are many areas of intersecting interests,” he said.
“It’s our view that if the leaders of Russia and the United States can work together cooperatively, our people, the world can be a safer and more secure place, and that’s what we seek,” the chief U.S. diplomat continued.
For his part, Lavrov echoed Blinken’s sentiments.
“Our position is clear. We are prepared to discuss all issues on the table with the understanding that our discussions will be honest, factual and with mutual respect,” Lavrov said. “Laws of diplomacy recommend mutuality, especially when it comes to response to any kind of hostile actions.”
The Biden administration’s interest in crafting a relationship with Russia, and the legacy media’s seeming approval of it, is a stark contrast from how the previous president was treated when it came to Moscow.
From his earliest days in office, Trump was accused of being a ‘Manchurian candidate’ operating on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was investigated for, accused of, and charged with improper contacts with a Russian diplomat. And ultimately false allegations of Russian collusion are what led to the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, whose 18-month-long probe produced no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Trump and little related to Moscow other than determining that a Russian troll farm purchased some Facebook ads aimed at influencing the 2016 election from both Trump’s perspective and that of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
And just a year ago, then-President Trump was criticized anew by Democrats after he issued a “rare joint statement” with Putin simply to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of U.S. and then-Soviet troops during World War II, Forbes reported, adding that it was “a symbolic gesture that’s reportedly alarmed some officials in the U.S. government.”
“I am sure this was a Russian initiative…Putin wants validation from the U.S. that today’s Russia, like the Soviet Union, is a great power,” Angela Stent, a former U.S. intelligence analyst, told The Wall Street Journal at the time.
Forbes added that in February 2020 The New York Times “reported that intelligence officials told members of the House of Representatives that Russia was trying to get Trump re-elected in the 2020 presidential election in November—angering Trump, who feared it would be weaponized against him while campaigning.”
However, the same media, as well as current and former U.S. intelligence officials, appear to be giving President Joe Biden and Blinken a pass — a contrast was certainly noted by social media users.
Is Time Magazine going to make another White House Kremlin cover now? lol https://t.co/ikZTVhBo8Y
— Mark Alastor (@MAlastor1) May 20, 2021
I thought cooperation with Russia was an impeachable offense…
— IowaGma2 (@Gma2Iowa) May 20, 2021
It’s amazing how many were duped into believing Biden would be tough on Russia… https://t.co/GTNmPM4yOS
— Gabriella Hoffman (@Gabby_Hoffman) May 20, 2021
Putin's puppet https://t.co/UC2z43NC2y
— Fusilli Spock (@awstar11) May 19, 2021
I can’t anymore. The hypocrisy is staggering.
— Mark Ashworth (@marklarflash) May 19, 2021
Blinken has a pee tape. https://t.co/SMGCAljNTn
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) May 19, 2021
Time for 30 NPR segments about this morsel of speculation.
— John Lund (@AttilaTheLund) May 19, 2021
But it wasn’t just the conciliatory tone that set off allegations of hypocrisy: Blinken’s call to work more closely with Russia came on the heels of a report that the administration is planning on waiving Trump’s sanctions on a Russian pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, which will bring natural gas to Germany.
Trump opposed the project because it would make one of NATO’s biggest, wealthiest members reliant on a country the security alliance exists to fight, if necessary. Trump’s State Department opposed the pipeline project for the same reason.
American pipeline and jobs? No.
Russian pipeline and jobs? Yes.
President Biden, if you’re can’t put America First, can you at least not put Russia first?
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) May 19, 2021
According to Axios, the Blinken-run State Department will recommend sanctions on a “handful” of Russian ships but waive the sanctions on the project itself, “citing U.S. national interests.”
“This planned move also sets up a bizarre situation in which the Biden administration will be sanctioning ships involved in the building of Nord Stream 2 but refusing to sanction the actual company in charge of the project,” Axios reported.
Currently, a Russian pipeline carrying natural gas to Europe passes through Ukraine, but Nord Stream 2 would bypass that fledgling democracy and further isolate it, which is a Putin objective.
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