Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The world press is being filled with noise about a meeting on the 15th of July between Putin and Trump in Vienna. The Kremlin neither confirms nor denies whether there is a meeting [at the time of writing this was true, however the Kremlin has since confirmed the there will be a meeting on July 16th – ed], and diplomats from both sides allegedly coordinate their positions.
July 15th is a date that is inconvenient for the Russian president. On this day, the closing of the FIFA World Cup is supposed to take place at 18:00, which the president of Russia will have to be present at. Of course, it is possible to fly early in the morning to Vienna, talk to Trump before midday, and to be already in Moscow by 18:00. But why makes things so tight? Especially as the Americans can deliberately try to prolong the meeting. Anyway, it is difficult to count on any arrangements. But if Putin is late for the closure of the 2018 World Cup because of a meeting with Trump, then this delay will emphasise the importance of the event for which all other major affairs were postponed.
But Trump manages to come to Vienna without hurrying after the NATO summit that has to take place on July 11th-12th in Brussels. He will even have the time for several bilateral meetings with allies after the summit.
If indeed the meeting has to take place in general, then in order not to give the impudent Yankees any excess tactical/information advantage it would be logical to move it to either the 14th or the July 16th [the 16th was later confirmed as the actual date of the meeting – ed]. After all, if the Americans can’t meet during these days, then Russia can still wait – there is no place to hurry to. The positions of Washington become weaker, so even if Russia will have to meet with the next US president, it will only be better for Moscow.
The entire course of the events preceding the current rumours about the emergency preparation of a meeting between the two leaders testifies that for the Americans the decision to hold a meeting between the two presidents was forced. It should be remembered that originally Trump stated that he is ready to accept Putin in Washington. Generally it is the newly elected head of State that usually makes a visit to their more experienced colleague. But the Americans got used to everyone considering it as an honor to come and bow before them. Indeed, if Putin came on a visit to Washington, the US could show at the symbolical level to their allies that their superiority in world politics doesn’t raise doubts. Even leaders that oppose them come to Washington to reach an agreement about peace.
Putin ignored Trump’s hints. After this Washington’s rhetoric sharply changed and US officials started claiming that there can’t be any meetings at the highest level until Russia makes concessions in Syria and in Ukraine. In the last month Washington again changed the narrative. Now it was found out that already for one and a half years Trump wakes up to the question: “When will my meeting with Putin take place?”. But the artful environment deceived the trustful President and boycotted his instructions. But, supposedly, Trump has now taken matters into his own hands and the meeting will take place very soon. Further, it was supported by semi-confirmed, at least not disproved, hearings about the preparation of a historical bilateral meeting in Vienna.
As a matter of fact Russia won a diplomatic campaign both already before the meeting and irrespective of the meeting. During one and a half years the US tried to impose a meeting from a position of force: in Washington and on preliminary conditions. Today it is about the preparation of a meeting on a neutral platform and without any conditions. Washington conceded on all points.
However, it doesn’t mean that the meeting will surely take place. Firstly, the Kremlin has no unambiguous conviction that it is worth agreeing to negotiations, foreknowing that there won’t be any compromise solutions, that the US all the same will push through their agenda, and that Washington will surely use the fact of the negotiations itself to strengthen their information positions. On the other hand Putin already repeatedly showed his ability to fascinate foreign leaders, which subsequently facilitated contact with them. Besides this, Russia can also use the meeting for information and propaganda purposes. Moreover, at present the position of the Kremlin is stronger because it is the US who pushed for compelled concessions and showed that this meeting is more needed by them.
The question consists in whether it is worth speaking with people who aren’t yet ready to make a constructive proposal. It is possible to suggest to them to go and think about it, but they can take offense and the general situation will worsen. It is possible to begin negotiations, recognising that in the course of communication it will be possible to come to a mutually acceptable compromise. Both options of behavior have their strengths and weaknesses. In recent years Russia preferred to be involved in negotiations… well, and then we’ll see – we will always have the time to quarrel, but we can reach an agreement anyway.
It is certainly clear that one shouldn’t expect a breakthrough in Vienna. Even if negotiations will be completed in the best way, the heads of States will only declare their intention to remove bilateral contradictions and to live in peace and friendship, while the process of reach a concrete agreement after this can last years and end with nothing.
Trump can’t make a compromise right now, because he’s just severely fallen out with practically all the civilised world, from China to Canada. He has a trade war and personal hostility towards everyone. If in these conditions he makes concessions to Russia, then it will mean that the US abandoned the fight for world leadership and tried to preserve a part of its former weight in the union with Russia. But then all their former allies competing in race each other to Moscow with offers of friendship, brotherhood, and eternal loyalty. And this will additionally weaken the positions of the US.
That’s why it is necessary for Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels to receive at least some unity (at least on minor questions) in order to speak with Putin in Vienna on behalf of the united West, which is still agrees with American primacy. So then his position will look at least in equilibrium with the position of Russia.
In turn Putin can’t concede to Trump in Ukraine or Syria, and he can’t refuse an informal, but very effective union with China. Each of these points is an important knot, connecting together the network of global coordination created in recent years by Russia for the purpose of ensuring security. The loss of one link in the chain will affect in the most fatal way the efficiency of the others. In the worst case scenario – the domino effect is possible, and in the best one – a considerable decrease in the effectiveness of the system and a disbalance in the actions of allies is possible.
But, taking into account the sharp weakening of the American global positions in the first half of 2018, Russia doesn’t see any sense in general in discussing the possibility of any concessions. Only a compromise solution of problems, assuming that the US will leave the foreign countries that closely border Russia, as an exclusive sphere of Russian interests in which they impudently intruded about 20 years ago. It is after this that it will be possible to discuss trade and economic interests of Washington. Finally, the balancing of the American budget is impossible without balancing trade and the termination of the expensive aggressive foreign policy is in the common interests of the whole world.
The world is interested in helping the US overcome the most severe crisis in which they herded themselves into and reform the American economy, but only in exchange for the abandonment of an active military policy, a sharp decrease in the military budget, a reduction in the number of mobile expedition forces – including aircraft carrier groups, the re-organisation of the structure of the American Armed Forces in favour of an exclusively defensive position that allows to reliably protect the US from an invasion, but doesn’t allow to perform large-scale overseas operations.
As we understand, today the US still hasn’t ripened for such radical compromises. That’s why a possible meeting in Vienna is only the first step. The US already agreed to speak on the conditions of others, but still doesn’t agree to form a constructive agenda. And they will come to this decision. The main thing is that it isn’t too late for the American economy.
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