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tv   Inside Story  LINKTV  June 18, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT

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♪ >> this is al jazeera. top stories. the former ivory coast president has returned home, 10 years after being extradited for war crimes. he was tried and acquitted by the international criminal court. the charges date back to 2010, when he refused to concede defeat after a presidential election. reporter: for the last one hour, there's been a steady stream of supporters in brussels, and cars, motorcycles, and on foot -- in cars, motorcycles, and on
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foot. the supporters are telling us they are going to party all night. in the middle of excitement, you also hear anger. can hear about frustrations -- you hear about frustrations and challenging the party in power. he is back home 10 years after, and the process of reconciliation probably could take longer than expected. >> iranians will head to the polls and a few hours to pick the next president, but many people are disillusioned after several candidates were blocked from running. israel says it has launched airstrikes on gaza, targeting hamas sites in response to incendiary balloons being sent off into southern israel for the third day. it's the latest escalation in fighting after a cease-fire between israel and hamas came into effect almost a month ago.
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president biden has signed a bill making what has become known as juneteenth a federal holiday. congress approved the legislation to mark june 19th as a commemoration of the day when the last enslaved african americans learned they were free. those are the headlines. coming up next is "inside story." goodbye. ♪ >> they exchanged handshakes and praise, but joe biden and vladimir putin's first meeting ended with little agreement. so have they missed the chance to reset the russia-u.s. relationship? this is "inside story." ♪
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hello, and welcome to the program. the u.s and russian presidents both acknowledge relations are at their lowest point since the cold war. their one-day summit in geneva was an opportunity to set out their differences. joe biden and vladimir putin exchanged highly choreographed handshakes and words of praise for each other. they agreed to resume talks on nuclear arms control and return ambassadors to each other's capitals. but there was little agreement on other issues dividing the two nations, such as cybersecurity, the war in ukraine, and political repression in russia. natasha butler reports from geneva. reporter: an elegant 18th century villa, overlooking lake geneva, was the setting for the high stakes meeting. russian leader vladimir putin arrived first. he was greeted by the swiss president, who then welcomed joe biden. the two men looked tense, as
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they stood for their first official photo. a handshake barely broke the ice. relations between washington and moscow are at their lowest point in decades. the face-to-face talks were aimed at improving them. >> as i said outside, i think it's always better to meet face to face. reporter: after several hours behind closed doors, there were some agreements, pledges to repost ambassadors, extend an arms control treaty, and discuss cybersecurity. both said the meeting was positive, but there was little progress on other issues, including the conflict in ukraine and human rights. putin dismissed biden's concerns about alexei navalny, calling the russian opposition leader a lawbreakers. -- calling the russian opposition leader a lawbreaker. >> ignoring the rules of law, this person went abroad for medical treatment. he arrived back in russia deliberately trying to be arrested. he knew what he wanted. reporter: biden was clearly unimpressed by putin's attempt to compare russia's treatment of opposition activists to the u.s capitol riot.
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-- to the u.s. capitol riot. >> my response is kind of what i communicated, but i think that's a ridiculous comparison. it's one thing for literally criminals to break through and go into the capitol, kill a police officer, and be held accountable, than it is for people objecting and marching on the capitol and saying you are not allowing me to speak freely. reporter: there were no major breakthroughs in this summit, and clearly, little common ground. but the return of u.s and -- but the return of u.s. and russian ambassadors to their posts is clearly a step to reopening communication between moscow and washington. for putin, this was a moment back on the world stage, likely to play out well at home. for biden, it was an opportunity to put down red lines and distance himself from his predecessor, donald trump's approach, often accused of being soft on russia. biden may be closer to the more stable relationship he says he wants with moscow, but it's
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still unlikely to be a predictable one. natasha butler, al jazeera, geneva. >> let's bring in our guests. joining us from brussels is theresa fallon, who's the director at the center for russia/europe/asia studies and also a senior fellow at the chicago council on global affairs. in moscow, pavel felgenhauer, defense and military analyst. and joining us from oslo is glenn diesen, who's a professor of international relations at the university of southeastern norway. welcome to the program. thanks for joining us on inside story. -- on "inside story." theresa, was this summit a disappointment, or was it a success for you? >> well, i think because there were such low expectations going in, that it didn't matter if it was perceived as a success, because nothing was expected. and i think that one of the big successes, though, for the biden administration, was that when they initially asked president putin to meet at the time of the
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ukraine crisis, pretty much, that putin, who's been in power for so long, didn't anticipate this type of g7 first, then the nato summit, and the eu-china summit, and then the meeting with putin was the final piece in this this carefully choreographed diplomatic ballet. and i think that it showed that biden had all the support, he had this growing momentum, and i think that that was a really key win in that sense, for president biden. in addition, it was very respectful. putin showed up on time. the meeting actually ended a little earlier than expected. but i think it just showed that these are two world leaders -- it gave putin a lot of face, in that sense, that president biden, on his first trip to europe, wanted to meet with him. they have many issues to discuss in regard to ukraine, nuclear disarmament, and also we saw in the comments at the very end of president biden's press conference, he mentioned that russia is being squeezed by china. so i think he was trying to feel
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him out and see how russian relations really were. >> yeah, we're going to drill down into these specific topics in just a moment. but glenn, over to you. theresa was just mentioning the timing of this. interesting. so joe biden, going into it with momentum, having come out of the g7 meetings and the nato meetings. do you agree with that assessment? and also, for you, what are your takeaway messages? >> well, i think it was a necessity from the united states, because previous policy has reached an end. but i would like to add that i think the meeting should be considered a success, because there is an agreement now to restore cooperation in areas of mutual interest, so be it arms control, cybersecurity, or even returning ambassadors to their post for the sake of diplomacy. so i'd like to point out that disagreements between the u.s. and russia have not changed, not a bit, but there seems to be an effort now not to let the areas of this agreement undermine cooperation in areas where mutual interests are important even for the world.
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so i think that how we reach this is because over the past seven years, ever since 2014, the u.s. has used a maximum pressure strategy against russia, in which washington even suspended operation areas, such as arms control in this tit-for-tat, even though there has been a mutual interest there. so i think that washington is hoping it could cause more pain to moscow than it did to washington, and thereby negotiate from a position of strength. but it hasn't been successful towards his end, and i think he reached the end of the line, and is now seeking to reach t to russia and try to fix some of these areas, at least where there's a common interest. so again, i would hope that's a success. >> okay, pavel, how would you describe success, if indeed you see this as successful? and also, there's a lot of talk online about who came out of this better. was it biden, or was it putin? so, what is the reaction in russia in particular, and for putin domestically, was it successful? >> domestically, yes, i believe
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it was successful in that it's being projected as a successful summit, and actually, the russian state media propaganda machine is also kind of -- they're not kind of pressing that putin, won, of course putin was wonderful, but the message is that this was a success, a glimmer of hope, so both sides actually, biden and putin are projecting success. the problem, of course, is that there was no real success practically, no real progress, or nothing was achieved. yes, there will be working groups in cybersecurity and nuclear arms, which will be trying to work up agreements, and that would take years, at best, even if they any time appear just simply to resolve the problem of the diplomatic missions that are right now handicapped by the tit for tat
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expulsions. and not issuing visas even, that's a big problem. again, there's going to be another working group between the state department and russian foreign ministry, but russia is demanding that to begin with. that the americans should return the resorts -- the country retreats, the dutches in long island and maryland, that the americans seized under the obama administration, accusing russia of using them for spying for biden to give them back, well, that's going to be a big problem internally for him. so, i mean, and the real issue actually, the issue that's about war or peace, the issue of ukrainian aspirations to join nato was not practically addressed at all. that's what the kremlin says. ukraine was not really discussed at all, right. >> pavel, did u expect something different on ukraine, on the issue with ukraine?
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the russian leader said in fact there was nothing of substance to discuss. and as you know, he accused kiev of breaching agreements, when it comes to the ukrainian government forces and pro-russian separatists in the east of the country. so he had a very bullish tone. did you expect anything different? >> well, today actually, there was an additional comment on that by the official kremlin spokesman, dmitry peskov, who said that it was not much discussed, especially native aspirations of ukraine. and he said that that is a red line, because for russia, that's a kaza's belly, actually, and that's why russian forces are still massed on the ukrainian border today. and will this summit actually succeed in preventing a regional war in europe happening this summer or not? we'll see it. well, as biden said, in six months, we'll see, okay, is this a success, right?
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>> let's look at the other issues. cybersecurity for one, which was a big one. how significant was it, president biden's announcement that the u.s and russia will task experts in both countries to address the threat of ransomware attacks? >> i think this is an important -- well, so far, it's not an achievement, it's a statement of intention, but but nonetheless, i think it's significant, because russia has for a while offered the united states to develop cooperation on this issue. however, so far, the u.s has formulated the problem more as being -- preventing russia from doing any cyber activities, which are not considered legitimate now. but like most other issues, there's always been this restraint on the american side to accept the idea of mutual constraint. this idea that one side should be constrained. so again, the united states should effectively police russia, which is not acceptable to them. so to have this agreement come together now to at least discuss
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the rules of the road, as biden referred to it, i think that's a good development. again, it's a small victory, but it's progress, nonetheless. >> theresa, weigh in on this issue for us, because putin denied any responsibility by russia in the attack on -- particularly on the colonial oil pipeline that took place in may, which the americans say, well, no, this has the hallmarks of the russians. so is it clear to you which way the future of the cybersecurity issue is going to go? >> well, this is a huge issue for the u.s., and in addition to the cyberhacking of the pipeline was also solar winds, which was a very serious cyber attack in the u.s. so i think that there is growing evidence that some russian entity was behind it. it's hard to pin it down. putin cannot be responsible for people in russia doing this, at least that's the russian narrative, from what i understand. but i think that this is a great concern. i think that in the talks, i read of the 16 areas that they
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don't want to have any form of cyberhacking, so they want to come up with some rules of the road, some guard rails, which are really important for this issue. and this is, you know, the new type of warfare that we really have to come up with better agreements on. so i think that as president biden said, he wanted to meet putin in person to, you know -- they have met each other before, but i think that these issues are so important, that they they -- these issues are so important, that they really did require a personal meeting, and i think it's a good start. it's just a baby step, but it will introduce a new period of at least discussion on these types of very serious areas that could lead to frictions in the relationship. >> right, and pavel, on the issue of human rights, i mean, president putin didn't budge at all, when it came to alexei navalny. he also suggested, as you know, that washington was in no position to lecture moscow on saying he was trying to avoid, -- on rights, saying he was trying to avoid, the "disorder" of popular movements in the u.s. this is, i suppose, not what the opposition in russia wanted to hear. most likely in moscow.
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- -- >> most likely in moscow. no one's really expecting anything else from putin. and actually, he accused the west and america financing opposition movements in russia, that apparently an american bidding wanted to overthrow his regime, and said that america considered him and present-day russia as an enemy. i mean, both sides apparently came down to that, that they are kind of enemies. but there's a mutual desire to avoid a direct crash, a direct military crash anywhere in the middle east, in syria, in the black sea, or the mediterranean or anywhere else. so yes, there is mutual interest to try to stabilize and de-escalate.
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and syria was mentioned as a place where there are russian military, american military, but the deescalation regime has been working for several years rather successfully. at least they're not shooting at each other, and that's really good enough right now. can such a de-escalation regime really be established by this summit right now? we're going to have just working groups. well, how will those working groups work this thing out? we right now don't know for sure, but it's going to be quite an uphill job. >> theresa, the president, president biden, as he left, he did say this, "we will respond if russia doesn't do what we want," on cyber, on human rights, and the rest of it, but respond how you know. that's the bit that's a little bit unclear. what approach is biden actually going to take with putin going forward? >> i think it was wise for president biden not to say that out loud in front of the journalists. i think that he probably had
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this conversation with putin, and it's better to keep that quiet, because he saw the experience of drawing red lines under the obama administration. so i think it was actually a wise choice. we don't know everything that they said behind closed doors, but i think that they had an exchange on this. >> glenn, one area that there was agreement on was the restoring of ambassadors. so does the return of an ambassador signal a sort of restoration of relations, or was it just the easiest thing to agree on at this point? >> that's probably one of the easier things, as a show of good faith, but also an effort to keep diplomacy alive. and also, this would encompass one of the areas where they have mutual interest to have a diplomatic presence. but i would agree that the main area of conflicts, which is tearing away at relations, is this issue of human rights, simply because it's non-negotiable for both sides. for the u.s., they say well, biden said this is who we are. it's non-negotiable, it will always be on the table, and for russia, it's also unacceptable that human rights is treated as a hegemonic norm, something to
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promote sovereign inequalities simply because its rules, which are applied only to one side, which is why putin pushed this idea a lot, that the u.s. does not have a clean slate itself, and it's very critical of this idea that under human rights, you know, the u.s can interfere in russia, but not the other way around. or the u.s can topple governments as democratic revolutions, it can invade countries by calling it the humanitarian interventionism, and effectively exempt itself from international law. so this is why we're really -- where the russians are pushing back against this so-called values that the united states is pushing. simply, as the helsinki accord suggests, it either has to be worked in under the concept of sovereign equality, which it initially was, otherwise it has to be scrapped from international security discourse, as they can't accept the way brighton is pushing it now. -- biden is pushing it now. so this is really the area where most conflicts will come, and this possible tit for tat punishment against each other is
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usually the area of cooperation, even though there is mutual interest. >> so theresa, what about the issue of china? you mentioned this at the beginning of the program. on china, president biden said russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now. they are being squeezed by china. what do you think he meant by that statement? was he trying to exploit the current sort of russian discomfort with china and pull russia more towards the west, or what's going on there? >> well, military strategists, they cannot fight a two front war. so most people think that they have to either pull russia back into the u.s orbit or china and russia if china attacks the us it will be impossible to fight a two-front war. so i think this is kind of the usual thinking, but i think russia, it's not the soviet union, its economy is the size of italy, it's much smaller, but as we know, as some analysts have said, their superpower is to upset the liberal international order. so i think, to disrupt.
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i think biden kind of put up a test balloon to see how china -- how russia would respond to this, because let's face it, they are a junior ortner to china. china's economy is huge. china doesn't have any allies, that's their narrative, but it's a frenemies type of alliance, and i think that russia and china actually have a lot of common cause, that they don't like the u.s. together and they worked together closely and the united nations. so it was a way i think for for biden to test the waters and see how putin feels. because at the end of the day, russia and china have a massive border. they have a lot of issues between them, and we've seen their past history. it was just kind of a test balloon to see how things how putin would feel about that. >> pavel, how do you think putin felt about that and to what extent do you think the u.s administration is trying to refrain from policies that drive russia and china closer together? >> well, it's not only the u.s administration.
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i know as a fact that other western nations, western diplomats, western ministers and leaders have been constantly prodding russia, explaining to the russians who apparently refuse to understand that china is a huge threat for them potentially, and that russia should kind of begin moving away a bit from china, not getting too closely engulfed by china, that's really not working right now at all. russia-china relations are getting even stronger and stronger, and just several weeks -- a couple of weeks ago, it was announced that russia is transferring all the dollars it had in its sovereign fund and that's well quite a lot of tens of billions of dollars into chinese currency or partially into euros, but out of dollars. so russia is kind of putting the money there and most likely this conversion of these funds -- i
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mean, the central bank will continue to have dollars, and russian exports bring 80 percent of the exports as paid in dollars, so converting it into a chinese yuan is not a very prudent business operation. >> but is he doing all of this because he wants to or because he needs to? specifically after the american and european sanctions that were imposed on russia for the annexation of crimea? >> there's a fear that there'll be further sanctions and there may be a confrontation in europe maybe, so severe, that russia -- that that russian sovereign government funds may be frozen and western banks, especially american banks, since they are in treasuries. that can be frozen. and the yuan or gold in vaults in moscow cannot be frozen so there is also the russian
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financial institutions preparing. russia is actually bracing for a possible downturn as a very catastrophic downturn that may happen. this summit was about maybe preventing that. but that's seen as a serious possibility. that's big money and big money losses. so russia is not moving right now away from china at a. >> glenn, what do you think about the china issue? some reports seem to suggest that the us is seeking to sort of normalize relations with russia mainly because of china. do you agree with that? >> the united states has been quite open about the desire to drive a wedge between china and russia, but it has to be pointed out that russia now has finally given up this goal it had for to create effectively a greater europe. china has now become its main and most important partner in
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terms of creating a new economic infrastructure. encompassing everything from autonomous technologies, transportation corridors, banking, and across the board now obviously the western sanctions against russia has increased or intensified this development to a great extent. i think it's often exaggerated the concerns that russia has about china. like so far, china's been pretty much an ideal partner for russia -- this idea that it is a junior brother is also exaggerated. because russia doesn't really have any hegemonic ambitions across the eurasian space at all and also when china enters a lot of these regions such as central asia is always cautious to to to harmonize his interest with russia. like every country, has to be peeled away from russia.
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the chinese aren't really pushing this strategy, which is why russia is not really that uncomfortable with being the smaller economies of the two. >> alright, we'll have to leave it there. thank you so much to my guests, theresa fallon, pavel felgenhauer, and glenn diesen, thanks for joining us. and thank you for watching. you can see the program again anytime by visiting our website, aljazeera.com. for further discussion, you can go to our facebook page. that's facebook.com/ajinside story. -- facebook.com/ajinsidestory. join the conversation on twitter. our handle is @ajinsidestory. from myself and the whole team here in doha, thanks for watching. bye, bye for now. ♪
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