Putin-Trump Summit: Normalizing Contacts Under Time Pressure

This week, US National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Moscow and met with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other high-ranking Russian officials. During the visit, an agreement was reached about the summit meeting of the two countries’ leaders, to be held in Helsinki on July 16.

John Bolton’s visit is an important and welcome development, because the situation, when the leaders and the ruling circles of the two nuclear superpowers, which play a key role in world security, practically do not communicate with each other, is absolutely unhealthy. This did not happen even during the Cold war, when, despite all the disagreements, acute conflicts, crises and mutual rejection, the communication channels, open, semi-classified, and classified ones, created for mutual understanding and crisis management, always worked.

Now a very strange situation has emerged: there seems to be public interaction, but it is indirect, through the media, official statements, propaganda and so on. And in this sense, Bolton’s visit is as important as the forthcoming Putin-Trump summit. Here lies an opportunity to start conversation about mutual understanding. This is not about deciding anything, but about understanding the logic of the countries’ behavior.

Judging by the statements made after the talks, at the Putin-Trump meeting, a certain framework document can be signed, which will outline the future discussion. This is somewhat reminiscent of what happened in April 2008, when Presidents Putin and Bush signed the US-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration.

Now we find ourselves at about the same stage when it is necessary to form an agenda. This will be the task of the summit, and this was discussed during Bolton’s visit.

There is no need to expect anything extraordinary from the forthcoming summit. The relationship remains in a state when any positive changes – if they are possible at all, since the domestic political situation in the United States plays a huge role here – can only occur as a result of very long and careful work. Now, of course, this will not happen, because there is no time. But this is an inevitable and important stage in order to normalize if not the relations, but simply contacts between the two countries.

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