By Rostislav Ishchenko – ‘Preliminary to Peace’ – The world’s press agencies are alive with chatter about the meeting of Putin and Trump on the 15th, in Vienna. The Kremlin does not yet confirm or deny the meeting*, and the diplomats on both sides allegedly coordinate the positions.
The 15th is an awkward date for the Russian president. On this day, at 6 pm is the closing ceremony of World Cup football, at which the Russian president should be present, should take place. You can, of course, fly to Vienna early in the morning, talk to Trump before lunch and be back in Moscow by 6 pm. But why make a rush? Moreover, the Americans can try to deliberately delay the meeting. It is still difficult to expect any kind of agreement. But Putin, late for the closing of the 2018 World Cup because of the meeting with Trump, himself this delay will emphasize the importance of the event, for which all other important matters were postponed.
Trump himself does not have to hurry to arrive in Vienna, after the NATO summit, which should be held July 11-12 in Brussels. He will even have some extra time for several bilateral meetings with his allies, after the summit.
In general, if the meeting is to take place, then in order not to give the impudent Yankees an extra tactical and info-war advantage, it would be logical to displace it either on the 14th or on the 16th of July. In the end, if Americans can not in these days, then Russia can still wait – there’s nowhere to hurry. Washington’s position is weakening, so even if it happens with the next president, Moscow will only get better.
The whole course of events that preceded the current rumors about the emergency preparations for the meeting of the two leaders shows that for the Americans the decision to hold a meeting of the two presidents is compulsory. Let me remind you that initially Trump stated that he was ready to accept Putin in Washington. In fact, this newly elected head of state usually visits his more experienced colleague. But the Americans are used to the fact that everyone considers it an honor to come to them to bow. Indeed, if Putin had come to Washington with a visit, the United States would be able to show to his allies at a symbolic level that their primacy in world politics is beyond doubt. Even the opposing leaders are arriving to negotiate peace in Washington.
Putin ignored Trump’s hints. After that, Washington’s rhetoric changed dramatically and US officials began to argue that there could not be any summit meetings until Russia made concessions in Syria and Ukraine. In the last month, Washington changed the story again. Now it turns out that Trump has been waking up suddenly after a year and a half with the question: “When will I have a meeting with Putin?”. But being surrounded by subversion, those around him deceived the president, and sabotaged his instructions. But now, they say, Trump took matters into his own hands and the meeting was about to take place. Further, this was confirmed by semi-confirmed, at least not refuted, rumors about the preparation of a historic bilateral meeting in Vienna.
In fact, Russia won the diplomatic campaign before the meeting and regardless of the meeting. For a year and a half, the US tried to impose a meeting on the position of power: in Washington and on preconditions. Now we are talking about preparing a meeting on a neutral ground and without any preconditions. On all points Washington conceded.
However, this does not mean that the meeting will necessarily take place. Firstly, the Kremlin does not have an unequivocal conviction that it is worth negotiating, knowing in advance that there will be no compromise decisions, that the US will still push its agenda and that Washington will necessarily use the very fact of the talks to strengthen its info-war position. On the other hand, Putin has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to fascinate foreign leaders, which subsequently facilitated business contact with them. In addition, Russia can also use the meeting for info-war and propaganda purposes. And at the moment, the Kremlin’s position is stronger, as the US has made concessions and demonstrated that they need a meeting.
The question is whether it is worth talking to people who are not yet ready to make a constructive proposal. You can invite them to go and think, but they can get offended and the general situation will worsen. It is possible to begin negotiations, proceeding from the fact that in the process of communication it will soon be possible to reach a mutually acceptable compromise. Both options have their own strengths and weaknesses. In recent years, Russia has preferred to get involved in negotiations, but we’ll see – we will always have time to quarrel, but we can also come to an agreement.
It is clear that it is not worth it to expect a breakthrough in Vienna. Even if the negotiations are concluded in the best way, the heads of state will only announce their intention to remove the bilateral contradictions and live in harmony, the process of reaching a concrete agreement can then last for years and end with nothing.
Trump can not compromise right now, because he has just quarreled with virtually all of the civilized world, from China, to Canada. With all he has a trade war and personal dislike. If under these conditions he will make concessions to Russia, this will mean that the US has abandoned the struggle for world leadership and is trying to keep some of its former weight in alliance with Russia. But then all their former allies will race to Moscow with offers of friendship, brotherhood and eternal loyalty. And this will further weaken the position of the United States.
That’s why Trump needs to get at least some unity at the NATO summit in Brussels (at least on minor issues) in order to speak with Putin in Vienna on behalf of the united West, still accepting American leadership. Then his position will look like at least an equilibrium position of Russia.
In turn, Putin can not yield to Trump on Ukraine, nor on Syria, can not abandon an informal but very effective alliance with China. Each of these points is an important node linking the network of global coordination created by Russia in recent years to ensure security. The loss of one link in the most fatal way will affect the efficiency of the others. In the worst case, the domino effect is possible, at best, a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the system and an imbalance in the actions of these allies.
But, given the sharp weakening of the US’s global position in the first half of 2018, for Russia it does not make sense at all to discuss the possibility of any concessions. Only a compromise solution to problems, suggesting that the US will leave Russia’s near abroad, as an exclusive sphere of Russian interests, into which they brazenly invaded about twenty years ago. After that, it will be possible to discuss the trade and economic interests of Washington. Ultimately, the balance of the US budget, impossible without the balance of trade and the cessation of costly aggressive foreign policy, in the common interests of the whole world.
The world is interested in helping the US overcome the most severe crisis in which they themselves have driven and to reform the American economy, but only in exchange for abandoning active military policy, drastically reducing the military budget, reducing the number of mobile expeditionary forces, including carrier groups, restructuring the structure of the US Armed Forces on a purely defensive, allowing to reliably protect the US from the invasion, but not allowing large-scale overseas operations.
As we understand, today the US is not yet ripe for such radical compromises. Therefore, a possible meeting in Vienna is only the first step. The United States has already agreed to speak on foreign terms, but they still do not agree to form a constructive agenda. And they will come to this decision. The main thing is that it happens in time for the American economy.
* The meeting has since indeed been confirmed by the Kremlin
translated from Alternatio by J. Flores