Trump swims against Western tide at summit with Putin
After three decades during which the international community has been governed by the consequences of the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of half a century of global conflict between the communist and capitalist camps, it seems a new world order is emerging.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, NATO has been a symbol of the victorious side in the Cold War. Since US President Donald Trump assumed office in January 2017, however, he has adopted a stance that has caused divisions in Washington’s relations with its European allies.
Trump has also shown a willingness to rebuild bridges damaged by the escalating confrontation between Russia and the US over the past five years with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki on July 16 was unique and significant, taking place, as it did, during turbulent times of rising confrontation between Russia and the West. It was the first summit between a Russian and American leader since July 2009, when Barack Obama and Putin failed to rekindle US-Russian relations.
This month’s summit aimed to pave the way for new relations between the superpowers, and to resolve pending issues diplomatically and politically. Both leaders broadly agreed on two major issues: To work together to maintain Israel’s security and activate the disentanglement covenant in the Golan Heights, signed in 1974 between Syria and Israel; and to prevent Iran from benefiting from the defeat of Daesh in Syria.
Trump implied that the conflicting positions of the American and Russian governments on some of the most important global issues — including Iran, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine — can be resolved through diplomacy and handshakes.
“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki. “However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.”
Putin echoed Trump’s sentiment, saying: “There was no solid reason behind the current tensions between our two countries.”
The harmonious statements by both presidents reflected the early outcome of the summit and their intention to reform American-Russian relations.
The US and Russia have not agreed on much in recent years. The harmonious statements by both presidents reflected the early outcome of the summit and their intention to reform American-Russian relations. Indeed, just four hours after the start of the meetings between Trump and Putin, which included a closed meeting that lasted for about two hours, and then an expanded meeting in the presence of officials from the two countries, Trump and Putin appeared at their joint press conference to announce a new phase of the relationship.
However, there are still several disagreements over a number of issues, with the exception of “Israel’s security in southern Syria.” While stressing that the talks with Trump had been “very successful and very useful,” Putin pointed out that the Cold War was over and that Russia and the US must work together to solve problems, including those at the intelligence level.
But this did not prevent him from acknowledging that there are many problems the Helsinki summit could not resolve.
“Securing peace can be an example of successful joint action,” he said. “The United States and Russia can play a leading role and cooperate in solving the humanitarian crisis and the return of refugees.” He also stressed the need to abide by the cease-fire in the Golan Heights in accordance with the 1974 pact.
In addition, Putin highlighted concerns about the withdrawal of the US from the nuclear agreement with Iran, as well as the importance of the application of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine.
When Trump said that the talks with Putin were only the beginning and that there was a constructive dialogue about problems and potential cooperation to achieve common interests, he meant it. He believes that Putin is doing his best to protect his country, just as he is doing his best to protect America and its interests.
The summit came at a difficult time for Trump. The investigation led by independent investigator Robert Mueller into Russian intervention in the 2016 US presidential election is continuing, and last week Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence agents with hacking the Democratic Party.
The meeting between the leaders, and its outcome, was greeted by a storm of condemnation in the Western media, particularly in the US, with aggressive comments from senators and other political representatives. It is clear that Trump will face very strong resistance from his administration and both chambers merely because he seeks to change the current status of relations between Washington and Moscow.
Warmongers are opposing the normalization of ties and peace. War-fueled hysteria and panic are much more profitable than peaceful trade and cooperation. However, the Russian side is ready to ameliorate the climate between Washington and Moscow because it affects world stability so much.
It is too early to speak of the results of the summit, as the outcome will depend on how successful Trump is in swimming against the current in the US and the wider West.
• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle Eastern affairs. She is president of the International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub) in Moscow.