Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, US State Department
Led by: Valerie Hopkins, Moscow Correspondent, The New York Times
The debate with the Under Secretary for Political Affairs of the US State Department, Victoria Nuland, largely focused on the relationship between the US, EU, and Russia. A lot of focus was paid to the recent summits in which President Biden met world leaders, including Vladimir Putin, to discuss future relationships. Victoria Nuland stressed that from the point of view of the US, the summits were a largely constructive and professional affair, helping bridge the gap and strengthen the commitments of the largest nations in the world. She mentioned that President Biden would like a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. However, she also mentioned that the US is ready to push back on issues that they do not agree with, particularly concerning human rights and values such as election and democratic interference. She added that while President Putin has also conveyed a desire for a predictable and stable relationship, the “proof of the pudding will be in the eating”. That is, cooperation will be attempted, and they will see how it will develop.
The debate steered towards recent issues concerning both Ukraine and Belarus. Victoria Nuland expressed continued support for Ukraine, mentioning this as one of the profound differences between the US and Russia. Similarly, she mentioned that President Biden has profoundly disagreed with the recent decisions of the Belarusian government, in particular the hijacking of a journalist from an international flight. The US believes that the only way to respect the rights of the Belarusian people is to have a free election. On that note, similarly to the EU, the US has imposed several sanctions on Belarus as repercussions to undermining global democracy.
In terms of US-CEE relationships, recent GLOBSEC polls indicate that the US is not the main strategic partner for most CEE countries. Some would rather turn to Germany or Russia instead. Victoria Nuland stressed that the US plans to convert what it has done in the past summits, concerning global cooperation on topics from economics to politics and the environment, into actions that strengthen cooperation across the board, including the CEE countries. She also added that the US is concerned about democratic backsliding anywhere in the world, including the CEE in recent years. She states that if “we believe that democracies are superior to autocracies, then we have to constantly tend to and protect our democratic gardens”. The US is prepared to continue to speak about its concerns in some countries. All countries should try to protect the high-level requirements of NATO partnership that they have acquired, especially for their own good.