Aleksandr Goltz, a highly respected military analyst, criticizes the forthcoming summit between Putin and Trump as a win for the former. By meeting with Putin, Trump has let him come in from the cold of his pariah status and rewarded a policy where Russia first causes a problem and issues threats, including nuclear ones. The West is then compelled to negotiate with Putin on his terms to resolve the problem and get Russia to remove the threats. Putin can be expected to dupe Trump, who has a minimal understanding of international affairs and is only interested in photo-ops. Goltz consoles himself and his fellow liberals that the summit will not efface Russia's status as a country that one can only expect bad things of.
Below is Goltz' commentary on the summit that appeared in the liberal outlet Ej.ru.
Aleksandr Goltz (Source: Novayagazeta.ru)
Putin Will Dupe Trump The Same Way That Kim Did
"The official press and pro-Kremlin political analysts are writing with ill-disguised glee that the next few weeks will bring what Putin has been dreaming about for the past 18 months, namely, the Russian-American summit. Out of both Moscow and Washington the leaks follow each other: the preparations for the meeting of the two presidents are in full swing. The interest of the public was heightened by a publication in The Washington Post about how Trump’s staff sabotaged his instructions to prepare for a summit last summer. The expectations are fuelled by other reports: Trump insisted on restoring Russia to the G7; in addition, the American president impressed upon other Western leaders that the Crimea was legitimately Russian.
"At first glance, this is an obvious proof of the fact that the Western policy of isolating Moscow did not produce results. Russian commentators are hinting as hard as they can that the Putin-Trump meeting is destined to become the triumph of the Kremlin, which has stoically withstood the pressure of “enemy forces”. Indeed, Trump’s presence in the White House has considerably alleviated Russia’s international standing. Only very recently, Putin with his views on international politics as an endless zero-sum game seemed absurdly obsolete, stuck in the 19th century. But, luckily for him, a man who has similar views has become the president of the most influential country in the world. In addition, this man is not overburdened with knowledge on anything, including the way modern international relations work. The G7 countries spent a quarter of their time discussing Russia: great, let us invite Putin and say all we have to say to his face. Little does Trump know that this function is performed by the UN Security Council (not very successfully); as for the G7, it is distinguished by the fact that it is an international club of democratic states united by common values. [These are] values that mean nothing to Putin. And, as we can see, they don’t mean very much to Trump.
"This seems to be a clear victory for Putin’s strategy. Beginning with the capture of the Crimea in 2014, Russia’s foreign strategy has been very simple: we will force you to communicate with us by constantly creating new problems and threats. You do not want a direct military confrontation in Syria that could lead to a third world war? Then you will have to talk to Russia. You fear a new arms race that seems inevitable after Putin’s presentation with nuclear cartoons? Let’s start new negotiations on Russian terms.
"Moscow occupied such a central place in the G7 meeting for one reason: it quite consciously set its mind on becoming a problem, or, more precisely, a threat to the West. A global redistribution of roles in world politics is happening right before our eyes. It is worth recalling that in the 1990s Russia, which was determined to relinquish its Soviet legacy, was looking for a new place on the global stage. It was then that an idea appeared that Moscow could represent the interests of the collective 'civilized world' during negotiations with countries that were at first called 'pariahs', and later (for the sake of political correctness) “problem states”: North Korea, Iran, Libya, Yemen, etc. This theory was not fated to turn into reality. Autocratic rulers are anyone but idiots. They prefer to negotiate with the “big boss” straight away.
"The problem was that US presidents (and only the master of the White House could be the 'big boss' in the eyes of 'pariahs') were loath to negotiate directly with ayatollahs and kims. Not to mention the fact that there were no guarantees you would not be duped. And nobody wanted to look like a naïve fool in the eyes of the voters. But with the advent of Trump everything changed. He is organically incapable of long serious negotiations or complex compromises. It is no accident that instead of such negotiations on tariffs, he simply started a trade war with China. He was bored coordinating policies in the statement of G7. But he desperately needs foreign policy successes.
"That is why he has assumed the role of the chief negotiator with “pariahs”. His most important victory is the meeting with Kim Jong-un, which was, on the whole, meaningless. Concealed behind the bombastic phrases about the first meeting between the leaders of the US and the DPRK is the truth that definitely does not favor the US. The only concrete result is the cancellation of the joint US-South Korea military exercise, i.e. fulfilling one of Pyongyang’s demands. In exchange, the US got Kim’s agreement to denuclearization. But, mind you, not of the DPRK – of the Korean peninsula. As a result, soon a question will inevitably come up about the presence of nuclear weapons on American warships that enter South Korean ports. A question will inevitably come up about reneging on the Pentagon’s policy to 'neither confirm nor deny' the fact of a nuclear weapons presence on US navy ships. But Trump is not aware of all this. What matters most is a dramatic TV picture.
"And now it is Putin’s turn. It is possible that yet another American president may think he sees something in the eyes of the master of the Kremlin. It is quite probable that Putin, following in Kim Jong-un’s footsteps, will be able to fool Trump, who is definitely no expert in strategic arms and military balance. I suspect that this is the reason why Trump’s administration was afraid to let its boss meet Putin. But even a possible tactical win cannot hide new strategic reality. It is not only the US who has tried on its new clothes. Russia has finally become firmly established as the chief pariah of the planet – a country from which only bad things can be expected. Putin is doomed to be no more than the leader of such a state in Trump’s scenario. And that is much more important than possible successes in the upcoming summit… "