Five days ago in The Duran I suggested that in view of the exceptionally tense international situation a summit meeting between Putin and Trump should take place urgently, before Trump’s inauguration.
“As President elect Donald Trump cannot enter into any formal agreements with Vladimir Putin or with Russia. However an informal summit between the two men before Trump’s inauguration would be a powerful signal of their determination to work together with each other to solve the mountain of problems which have accumulated. It would annoy Obama and the neocons, but it would enable Trump and Putin to get to know each other better (they have never actually met) and would at least enable them to start to lay the groundwork for a move towards improving relations once Trump is inaugurated.”
I notice that the Saker too in an article that came out at the same time as mine also said that a summit between Putin and Trump would be a good idea. Here is what he said
“Ideally, the next step would be for Trump and Putin to meet, with all their key ministers, in a long, Camp David like week of negotiations in which everything, every outstanding dispute, should be put on the table and a compromise sought in each case. Paradoxically, this could be rather easy: the crisis in Europe is entirely artificial, the war in Syria has an absolutely obvious solution, and the international order can easily accommodate a United States which would “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations” and “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict“. The truth is that the USA and Russia have no objective reasons for conflict – only ideological issues resulting directly from the insane ideology of messianic imperialism of those who believe, or pretend to believe, that the USA is an “indispensable nation”. What the world wants – needs – is the USA as a *normal* nation.””
The Kremlin’s summary of the telephone conversation between Putin and Trump has now been published in English and it confirms that a summit is indeed being prepared. Here is what it says:
“It was agreed to maintain contact by phone and arrange a meeting in person in the future, with preparations to be conducted by representatives of both sides.”
This statement does not say whether or not the summit will take place before Trump is inaugurated. The wording however suggests that it is highly likely that it will take before the inauguration, though Trump will need to decide on his foreign policy team before it happens. If so then a meeting in the middle or the second half of December would be a strong prospect.
If the summit takes place after the inauguration, then the urgent language in the summary suggests it will happen very early next year.
The two leaders will also have to decide quickly on a venue. That may not be as straightforward as it seems, with Trump possibly unwilling to leave the US before or shortly after his inauguration, and both leaders wary of holding the summit in Europe, whose leaders are making no secret of their unease about the ongoing US-Russian rapprochement. A visit by Putin to the US looks like the most likely option.
Whenever and wherever the two leaders they will have a mountain of things to talk about. However as the Saker said the outlines of a possible deal are certainly there. A summary of the sort of offer Trump which might make may be found in – of all places – an article by Gideon Rachman in the ultra anti-Trump and ultra anti-Putin Financial Times
“The US will end its opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Although America may not agree to the formal legal incorporation of Crimea into Russia, it would accept it as a fait accompli. Following that, the US will lift economic sanctions. The Americans will also drop any suggestion that Ukraine or Georgia will join Nato. The build-up of Nato troops in the Baltic states will also be slowed or stopped……Military tensions on the front line between Nato and Russia will be dialled down. With their conflict in eastern Europe eased, the US and Russia will make common cause in the Middle East. The US will drop its commitment to the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and will join the Russians in an attack on the Isis militant group.”
Gideon Rachman then sets out what he thinks the Russians should give in return
“In return for these large concessions, Russia will be expected to wind down its aggression in eastern Ukraine and not attempt to make further territorial gains there. Russian pressure and implicit threats towards the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be dropped.”
Since the Russians are not committing “aggression in eastern Ukraine” or “attempting to make further territorial gains there” and are not applying pressure or making “implicit threats towards the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania”, none of that need detain us further, and nor of course will it stand in the way of a deal between Putin and Trump.
Gideon Rachman’s list does not end the series of outstanding issues between the US and Russia. A key issue for the Russians, though one barely discussed in the West, is the deployment by the US of anti-ballistic missile systems in eastern Europe. Our contributor Vladimir Kozin has discussed in The Duran the enormous seriousness of this issue for the Russians. Whether Trump knows anything about this issue (it was not discussed during the Presidential election) or is prepared to make concessions in relation to it, remains to be seen.
The other key problem between the US and Russia – though probably not one that will be discussed at the summit – is the future of Ukraine.
Without US support, and with prospects of Ukraine joining NATO and the EU closed off, the Maidan regime – which is already showing increasing signs of instability – will have lost its entire raison d’etre and could start to unravel. A future political crisis in Ukraine anyway looks like a virtual certainty. Putin and Trump will have to form a clear understanding between them of what happens when it does in order to ensure that if or rather when the crisis in Ukraine happens it does not lead to another crisis in US-Russian relations, such as the one that happened in 2014.
The fact that Putin and Trump appear to have had a substantive discussion – far more so than the anodyne and ritual words Trump has so far exchanged with the leaders of the US’s European allies – Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Theresa May – and that they are talking seriously about a summit meeting, is a good sign that a serious negotiation between the leaders of the two Great Powers is underway.
That offers the world at least some hope for a future rapprochement and for a general relaxation of tensions.