It Doesn’t Look Like Our Former Partners Are Exhausted*

*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

CIA Director William Burns complained that his Russian colleague Sergey Naryshkin was provocative and arrogant during their most recent meeting last November in which they discussed Ukraine and nuclear security. The two intelligence agency leaders have not met since then. Kommersant’s political analyst Dmitry Drize believes that further talks between Russia and the West are very much in question.

CIA Director William Burns shared some details of his meeting with his Russian colleague Sergey Naryshkin last November when Burns spoke on “Face the Nation.” Burns said Naryshkin was provocative and arrogant, leaving him disheartened by what he saw and heard.

“[There was] a sense, I think, reflecting Putin’s own view, his own belief today that he can make time work for him, that he believes he can grind down the Ukrainians, that he can wear down our European allies, that political fatigue will eventually set in,” Burns said.

There is not a lot of information about what the two intelligence chiefs discussed. It appears the focal point was the Ukrainian conflict and nuclear security. By the way, the topic of global confrontation began to slowly fade after that meeting. It is not in the foreground right now, so to speak. Besides, both sides seemingly agreed to keep communication channels open in the future to prevent a worst-case scenario. A new meeting was supposed to take place in January but never took place, it looks like it will not take place in the foreseeable future.

The remarks by Burns are not sensational in any sense. This kind of communication between Russian officials and unfriendly former partners is widespread nowadays. We shouldn’t hide behind diplomacy and protocols. Instead we should speak the harsh truth while looking opponents in the eye. If you don’t like your opponent, why hide it? Let them know. It’s hard to tell how effective these methods of communicating are in achieving the desired objectives. It’s easy to assume that one of the participants will object.

At that point, there is a natural tendency to reduce contact to a minimum or to end talks altogether. Of course, we could extract some moral satisfaction in this, from that; as for everything else, it’s a moot point. Actually the result is obvious since Naryshkin and Burns haven’t met since. To be honest, further contact between Russia and the West in all possible formats also seems unlikely. Moreover, it doesn’t seem that the West has begun to suffer from any kind of fatigue.

To the contrary, there are many indications that the U.S. plans to escalate events, to act more harshly and more decisively so as to not drag the matter out for too long.

Combating their exhaustion doesn’t necessarily mean immediately agreeing to Russian conditions – the opposite could also happen. That’s how we should, perhaps, interpret Burns’ words; that they understand our strategy and draw their conclusions accordingly. And yes, we can agree that the current situation is nothing but disheartening, just like the arrogant tone of Burns’ colleague, Naryshkin.

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About Artem Belov 87 Articles
Artem Belov is a TESOL-certified English teacher and a freelance translator (Russian>English and English>Russian) based in Australia but currently traveling abroad. He is working on a number of projects, including game localization. You can reach him at

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