Russia-US: Weather for Tomorrow Will be Announced the Day after Tomorrow

18.07.2018

The meeting in Helsinki demonstrated the desire of Putin and Trump to normalize relations between the two countries, and also showed some opportunities for the movement towards each other.

The desire to normalize relations is undoubtedly mutual and was confirmed by the behavior and statements of both leaders before and after the meeting. For example, it was obvious their desire to leave behind the issue of Russia's interference in the US elections and to focus on other international issues.

The possibilities for moving forward could be related to possible compromises on the settlement in Syria and Ukraine, establishment of a permanent dialogue on cybersecurity and nuclear weapons, mutual commitments on political non-interference in internal affairs, development of joint measures to combat terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons etc. This movement towards each other is hardly to be rapid, given both the internal political discord within the United States and skepticism about concessions from a significant part of the Russian establishment. Nevertheless, such a move would be possible with the political will of the presidents. The minimum program could be the intention to stop the degradation of relations between the two countries, to achieve understanding of each other's interests and to direct mutual rivalry in a predictable way.

The main issue after the meeting is whether the Helsinki momentum will be used to move towards normalization, or the meeting will remain an insignificant event that will not stop further development of the global conflict between Russia and the United States.

On the part of the US, such a movement is not limited to the fierce resistance of the establishment, which manifests itself in attempts to sabotage the meeting in Helsinki, to present Trump as Putin's puppet and betrayer of national interests. The problem lies in Trump himself, his ideas about the role of Russia in the world, his impulsiveness and the difficulties to give Russian-American relations consistent and priority attention, connected with the nature of his character. His desire to cut the most complex knots by one-shot deals does not promise anything good. For example, this refers to a desire to quickly make Russia a partner in the confrontation of the US against Iran and China. What about relations that Russia has built over the years and decades? What can Trump offer in return?

On the part of Russia, skepticism is fully justified. Trump offers some grand turns, but at the same time the American establishment continues to see Russians as enemies and rivals, it does not question the existing sanctions and even prepares new ones. Where is the specifics? It reminds a pig in a poke, and not a serious dialogue. Without the specifics and further elaboration of the entire range of accumulated problems, the results of the meeting will quickly evaporate or lead to expectations of cooperation on the conditions of the White House, which the Kremlin repeatedly faced. It is characteristic that the talks about possible concessions on Syria are conducted on the background of statements about unacceptability and possible sanctions against the Nord Stream-2.

Therefore, the conflict between the US and Russia, deepened by the change of power in Kiev, Crimea and subsequent events, is far from exhausted and is only on pause. Further dynamics will be determined by the willingness of the parties to move towards each other, overcoming the resistance of the establishment and personal distrust.

The US needs to be convinced of the absence of attempts to interfere in the November midterm elections and Russia's willingness to contribute to a political settlement of the Syria conflict. Then Trump will be able to say that his policy of normalizing relations with Russia is yielding important results.

Both parties need to ensure that the declared groups for the economy, fight against terrorism and cybersecurity should effectively function, there should be a positive dynamic in strategic issues, so that during new meetings the verified decisions and important documents are to be signed.

Then it would be possible to say, that the summit in Helsinki was the beginning of the curtailment of the negative trend in bilateral relations. As they say in Russia, the weather for tomorrow will be announced the day after tomorrow.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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