The anathema of the Cold War era has happened. Donald Trump has met Vladimir Putin, after all and Monday’s one-to-one in Helsinki has reaffirmed the US President’s hope that the meeting would be the easiest facet of his travels in Europe, notably his participation in the Nato summit and the visit to the UK.
Has he worked in accord with a studiously calibrated plan? Specifically to debunk Nato in order to damage trans-Atlantic commitments, make the waters murkier to tarnish the credibility of the European Union, and then play the role of what they call the “cooperative statesman” in his talks with the President of Russia.
The historical frost, dating back to 1945, has melted and the credit for making the summit possible must go to the Kremlin. Yet as it turned out, both leaders effected a rapid-fire survey of the critical issues in contemporary international relations, most particularly the Russian meddling in the US Election 2016, the annexation of Crimea, the expansionist designs on Ukraine, Putin’s bombardment of Syria, the cyberspace disruptions, and the outrage in Salisbury.
On the whole, the focus on the world’s storm-centres was inadequate, almost perfunctory. Of riveting interest was the Kremlin’s electoral intervention, choreographed to ensure Trump’s victory and the defeat of Hilary Clinton. And yet despite the indictment of as many as 12 Russian agents in the US, the President was suitably diplomatic, even defensive.
He has utilised the opportunity to bin special counsel, Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “disaster”, implicitly holding the credibility of the FBI at a discount. He has stoutly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. That denial, made in the presence of President Putin at the joint press conference, runs counter to the US sanctions against Russia, imposed as recently as in April this year.
The Trump-Putin summit underlines a dramatic change in the US President’s worldview. His strategy decries the values that have endured in Western policy since the defeat of Hitler. It is an essay towards a conscious break with the post-war network of alliances.
The Cold War is well and truly over ~ a watershed development that has happened 27 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union (August 1991). Because Russia is a significant military power, Mr Trump has brought it in from the cold.
For all the personal chemistry that was witnessed in Helsinki, it was decidedly uncharitable on the part of Trump to blame what he called the “stupidity of my predecessors for plunging US-Russian ties to their present low. Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago.” It is almost as if he has devised a quick-fix formula to smoothen the rough edges. For now, President Trump has been astute enough to play to the Kremlin gallery. By that token, President Putin is the winner.