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The Trump – Putin call: summary and analysis

“Businesslike and substantive call” between the leaders of the US and Russia

Alexander Mercouris

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin – blocked by the US bureaucracy from having a proper meeting with each other at the APEC summit in Vietnam – have instead had the detailed discussion they wanted with each other by telephone.

That is the conclusion one must draw from the unusually detailed summary of this conversation which has been provided by the Kremlin’s website

As agreed in advance, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the United States of America Donald Trump.

Current Syrian issues, in view of the military operation to destroy terrorists in Syria which is winding down, were thoroughly discussed. Vladimir Putin stressed Russia’s willingness to actively facilitate a durable political settlement in that country on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and in keeping with the agreements reached as part of the Astana meetings and the provisions of the Joint Statement approved by the presidents of Russia and the United States on November 11 at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam. It was noted, in particular, that this statement met with a positive reaction in the Middle East.

There was discussion of the need to preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, and to achieve a political settlement on the basis of principles that must be worked out as a result of the broadest possible intra-Syrian negotiation process. This is precisely the aim of Russia’s initiative to hold the National Dialogue Conference in Sochi soon.

Vladimir Putin informed Donald Trump about the main outcomes of the November 20 meeting with Bashar al-Assad, where the Syrian leader reaffirmed his commitment to the political process, constitutional reform, and presidential and parliamentary elections. In addition, emphasis was placed on the upcoming trilateral talks in Sochi on November 22 with the participation of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, during which steps to further normalise the situation in Syria and various aspects of the political settlement process are to be coordinated.

More broadly, the President of Russia once again spoke in favour of joint antiterrorist efforts with the United States, noting the practical importance of coordinating efforts between the special services of both countries. The US President was supportive of this idea.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump also exchanged views on the current state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula, emphasising that it would be advisable to find a negotiated solution to the problem by diplomatic means.

Regarding the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the President of Russia pointed to the lack of a real alternative to unconditional compliance with the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015.

The two leaders touched on the situation in Afghanistan, which is of concern due to the growing terrorist and drug trafficking threats.

The situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme was also discussed. Russia’s commitment to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was noted, as it is an essential factor in ensuring regional stability and overcoming the challenge of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the businesslike and substantive conversation.

The Kremlin says the conversation was “agreed in advance”.  One would like to know when and by whom?

My guess is that Trump and Putin agreed it during one of their short encounters at the APEC summit, when they realised that a proper summit between them was being blocked.  If so then the conversation is the fruit of their encounters at the APEC summit.

The conversation covered an unusually wide range of issues:

Syria

This was unquestionably the most important topic discussed, and the one which would have taken up the most time.

The Russians are very much at the forefront of the Syrian negotiations, having together with the Iranians effectively won the war in Syria for President Assad.

That has put the Russians in a position of great strength, which they could in theory use to dictate the terms of the settlement at the forthcoming negotiations whilst seeking to exclude the US.

Had positions been reversed, and had the US found itself in such a position of advantage, it is a certainty that it would be not be involving the Russians in the negotiations.  The US after all did not involve the Russians in the negotiations which followed the US “victories” in the 2003 Iraqi war and the 2011 Libyan war.

The Russian approach is the diametric opposite.  Instead of seeking to exclude the US from the negotiations Putin briefed Trump fully on his discussions with President Assad – someone who remains persona non grata for the US and for Donald Trump himself – and set out for Trump the Russian approach to the negotiations.

In doing so Putin followed the classic Russian approach of carefully setting out for Trump the list of international agreements the Russians have negotiated and which they are using as the building blocks of the negotiations.

UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and in keeping with the agreements reached as part of the Astana meetings and the provisions of the Joint Statement approved by the presidents of Russia and the United States on November 11 at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam.

Of these the most important for Trump is the Joint Statement he made with Putin at the APEC summit in Vietnam.

Trump was not involved in the earlier agreements, but will feel that he has ownership of the Joint Statement, and by agreeing to it at the APEC summit and by referring to it in his telephone conversation with Trump, Putin is giving Trump a reason to feel that he is an actual participant in the negotiations and is not just a bystander.

In reality the most important of the agreements Putin referred to during the conversation is UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council on 18th December 2015 following lengthy negotiations between Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry.

The full text of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 can be found here.

Why is it so important to Putin and the Russians to involve Trump in the negotiations?  The clue to that can be found in the topics which were discussed.  For example Putin used the conversation to reaffirm to Trump

the need to preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria

(bold italics added)

This language is taken directly from the preamble of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which reads as follow

Reaffirming  [the UN Security Council’s] strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic

(bold italics added)

What lies behind this is Russian concern about what I recently called the US’s Plan C: the attempt by some in the US to maintain US influence in Syria by carving out a quasi independent Kurdish statelet in northern Syria.

Plan C is already in serious trouble as a result of the defeat of the Kurds in Kirkuk by the Iraqi army. However Putin used the telephone conversation to remind Trump that Plan C – because it threatens Syria’s territorial integrity – is incompatible with the commitments the US previously took on itself when it negotiated and voted for UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

Putin also used the conversation with Trump to remind Trump of his longstanding proposal – made most famously in his September 2015 UN General Assembly Speech – for a joint struggle by the US and Russia against Jihadi terrorism.

Trump has been consistently receptive to this idea – the Kremlin’s summary says he was “supportive of this idea” – but it has been consistently blocked by the US bureaucracy including especially the Pentagon.

For Putin the attraction of this proposal is not just that such a joint struggle will facilitate the global struggle against terrorism – something Putin cares about as much as Trump does – but because such a joint struggle might provide a tie between the US and Russia which might reverse the downward spiral in US-Russian relations.

Whilst Trump is “supportive of the idea” it remains to be seen whether the resistance to in Washington can be overcome.

In summary, Putin is keeping Trump informed of Russia’s Syrian diplomacy in order to limit as far as possible the danger of the US acting as a spoiler.  The idea is to get Trump to think that the US has some ownership over the eventual outcome, so that it does not act to wreck it.

At the same time Putin hopes to use this as a bridge towards improving relations.

Whether given the pathological hostility to Russia in the US these efforts can be successful is another matter.  However Putin doubtless feels that by trying he is doing his job.

Korea

The Kremlin’s summary tells us little about the discussion on the Korean issue, which suggests that this part of the conversation may have been brief.

It is quite likely that it was Trump who initiated this part of the conversation since he has made achieving a settlement of the North Korean issue the central focus of his foreign policy.

Putin will no doubt have sought an explanation from Trump of Trump’s recent decision to put North Korea back on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, and he will also have sought reassurances from Trump that the recent US fleet and troop movements near North Korea are not intended to set the scene for US military action.

Putin will also have briefed Trump about Russia’s recent negotiations with the North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui, and he will no doubt have reminded Trump of the Chinese-Russian proposal for a double-freeze.

Trump for his part will no doubt have sought – and received – reassurances from Putin that Russia will enforce the sanctions the UN Security Council has recently imposed on North Korea following that country’s intercontinental ballistic missile and hydrogen bomb tests.

Ukraine

Donald Trump hinted during the 2016 election campaign that for him the conflict in Ukraine came close to the bottom of his list of foreign policy priorities.  However he has encountered fierce resistance from his bureaucracy, which continues to be committed to Ukraine, and which continues to use the conflict there to mobilise opposition to Russia in Europe.

Recently hardliners in the US have been floating proposals to send weapons – notably Javelin anti-tank missiles – to Ukraine, whilst an article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that some US officials were trying to pressure the Russians into agreeing to a force of 20,000 “peacekeepers” to restore the Donbass to Ukrainian control.

Needless to say the Russians have emphatically rejected both proposals, and Putin followed this up by taking the unprecedented step of telephoning Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky – the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – and having details of this call posted on the Kremlin’s website in what was clearly intended as a show of support.

The proposals to flood the Donbass with ‘peacekeepers’ and to send arms to Ukraine are actually inconsistent with the February 2015 Minsk Agreement as the Russians never tire of pointing out, and the Kremlin’s summary of Putin’s conversation with Trump shows that Putin used the opportunity provided by the call to point this out to him

Regarding the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the President of Russia pointed to the lack of a real alternative to unconditional compliance with the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015.

My impression is that Trump is not interested in the conflict in Ukraine, in which he rightly sees no national or security interest for the US.  Left to himself he would probably gladly walk away from it, as would many of those who supported him in the 2016 election.

With the Russiagate affair still ongoing, that is politically impossible.

What that means in practical terms is that Trump will have listened to what Putin had to say and will have taken note of it, but this will have no immediate effect on US policy.

If Trump is one day able to put Russiagate behind him and consolidate his position in Washington that may change.  However that is not the situation now.

Afghanistan

The last few months have witnessed a drumbeat of accusations in the US that the Russians are covertly assisting the Taliban by sending arms and economic aid to them.  The Russians categorically deny these accusations, though they admit to holding talks with the Taliban who they are gradually coming to see as a bulwark against the spread of ISIS to Afghanistan.

The Kremlin’s summary suggests that the part of the telephone conversation between Trump and Putin which touched on Afghanistan was brief, and that these accusations were not discussed in any detail if they were discussed at all

The two leaders touched on the situation in Afghanistan, which is of concern due to the growing terrorist and drug trafficking threats.

The reference to “drug trafficking threats” possibly refers to the longstanding Russian complaint that the US is not doing enough to suppress heroin production and trafficking in Afghanistan.  A large part of this heroin is transported across Russia to Europe, causing a serious heroin problem in Russia, and the Russians have been placing the blame for this on the blind eye that they say that the US has been turning to heroin production in Afghanistan.

It is quite likely that Putin raised this issue with Trump whilst repeating Russia’s concern that ISIS, as it is being driven out of Syria and Iraq, is now starting to gain a foothold in Afghanistan.

Though these are concerns Trump is known to share, the terse part of the Kremlin’s summary of this section of their conversation makes it impossible to say what his reaction was.

It is not impossible that the reason this part of the summary is so terse is because there were disagreements, which the Kremlin does not want to publicise.

Iran

On the subject of Iran, Trump and Putin have diametrically opposite views.

Trump sees Iran as a hotbed of terrorism; Putin sees Iran as Russia’s strategic partner and ally in the struggle against terrorism.

Trump considers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear programme a “bad deal”, and has recently decertified Iran because of its supposed breaches of it.

Putin unequivocally supports the JCPOA and denies that Iran has committed any breaches of it.

The Kremlin’s summary makes no effort to hide the disagreement

Russia’s commitment to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was noted, as it is an essential factor in ensuring regional stability and overcoming the challenge of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

No word is said here of what opinions Trump expressed, though it is a certainty they were the opposite of the ones held by Putin and Russia.  Doubtless Trump and Putin had a forthright exchange of opinions on this issue.

General

Unusually, the Kremlin website tells us something of the atmosphere of the call.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the businesslike and substantive conversation.

It is a commonplace in the US and Europe that Donald Trump is terrible at diplomacy.

In reality his interactions with world leaders during his recent Asia tour and his conversations with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping tell a different story.

Though Trump is extremely inexperienced and many of his ideas about foreign policy are frankly amateur, he nonetheless comes across as warm and approachable in a way that his cold and aloof predecessor Barack Obama never did.

The result is that other world leaders – especially those outside Europe – like him in a way that they never liked Barack Obama, and are prepared to cut him slack, even when they disagree with him.

That suggests that if the US bureaucracy was prepared to work with Trump and not against him, and instead of seeking to undermine him at every turn sought to help him gain the experience and understanding of world affairs he needs to do his job, then he could in time become an extremely effective foreign policy President.

Trump’s interactions with Xi Jinping and Putin are cases in point.  As the leaders of the two other Great Powers they are the two most important individuals in the world with whom the US and its President must deal.

Trump seems to understand this, and despite a catalogue of misunderstandings he seems to be gradually edging towards a better understanding of the Chinese leader.  As for Putin, Trump’s few interactions with him at a personal level have always gone well.  The “businesslike and substantive” telephone conversation he has just had with Putin is a case in point.

As for Putin, his conversation with Trump was just part of a day’s work.  That day was extremely busy.  As well as the conversation with Trump, Putin had meetings with President Assad of Syria and President Zeman of the Czech Republic, and also had telephone conversations with President Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.  Today (22nd November 2017) he will be meeting President Erdogan of Turkey and President Rouhani of Iran.

It will take many years of hard learning and hard work before Donald Trump can conduct diplomacy at that sort of pace.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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