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memri
July 20, 2018 No.
7576

Reactions To The Trump-Putin Meeting: Putin Outmaneuvered Trump, But That Is Not Necessarily Good News For Russia – Part III

Russian opinion-makers viewed the Trump-Putin meeting as positive for Russia.[1] The conservative media outlet Tsagrad.tv described the summit as a defeat for Trump, and as Moscow's victory. According to Tsagrad.tv, the summit will have as a direct consequence: the weakening of the US, defined as Russia's "enemy", since it will  provoke a schism within the American ruling elites. Russia, for its part, emerged as a global power, showing that it "rose from its knees" and forcing Washington to treat Moscow as equal. This last point was also made by Russian Senator Alexey Pushkov, who mentioned in his tweet that the summit proved that former US President Barack Obama  was wrong, when in 2014 he dismissed Russia as a "regional power."[2]

However, Russian expert Fyodor Lukyanov opined that the fact that Putin dominated the scene at the summit might not have a good impact on Russia-US relations. He also stated that the fact that the press conference was "scripted" by Putin warmed the "Russian heart", but not the US political elite. Hence, Lukyanov is very skeptical that Washington will be able to pursue a dialogue with Russia.

Mk.ru columnist Mikhail Rostovsky shares Lukyanov'sopinion. According to Rostovsky, Trump looked "modest" and "timid" in Helsinki, but he may take "anti-Russian" decisions in the future, as he did in the past, due to domestic considerations.

The director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, wrote that Trump is too weak to change the course of the Russia-US relations. According to Kortunov, Trump would like to turn Putin into a major partner or even into a friend, but the Congress impedes him from doing so. In these circumstances, Putin sees Trump as an insecure political investment, bearing very high and unjustified risks. That is why the Russian president is not willing to make concessions on a number of key foreign policy issues to Trump.

The following are reactions to the meeting in Helsinki:


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

Source: Tsagrad.tv)

Tsagrad.tv: The Summit Was A Blow Against The 'Trans-Atlantic Solidarity'

Nationalist and conservative media outlet Tsargrad.tv published an article, titled "Putin Defeats Trump In Helsinki," commenting on the Trump-Putin meeting.

The article stated:

"There are lots of advantages for Putin [in having the summit]. With his arrival to Helsinki, Trump in fact recognized Crimea's repatriation to Russia, and the strategic failure of the US operation to turn Ukraine into an anti-Russia battering ram… This also validates Russia's Syrian policy and a failure of anti-Russian sanctions, which were introduced in order to hinder all that. It is also a blow against the 'Trans-Atlantic solidarity', because hardly everyone in the West is happy with the Putin-Trump meeting.

"Moreover, this deepens the schism between those in the West who support 'realpolitik' and understand together with Trump that it is silly to ignore Russia or count on its imminent collapse and many in the West who are frank Russophobes, who support 'values'. Eventually this meeting, though it provides a kind of an alibi to Trump, will lead to further weakening of Russia's main enemy, the US, since it will drive a wedge in its elite. But the most important thing is that this meeting is a demonstration that Russia rose from its knees and Washington is forced to treat Moscow in this new role, whether the anti-Russian American establishment likes it or not."

(Tsagrad.tv, July 16, 2018)

Russian Expert Lukyanov: The Fact That The Press Conference Was Orchestrated By Putin Might Be A Disadvantage For The Possibility To Plan And Implement Anything

Russian expert and editor of Russia in Global Affairs, Fyodor Lukyanov, wrote in his Telegram channel:

"Obviously, there is a [mutual] understanding on the possibility for cooperation in Syria, something that has been actively pointed out during the last weeks. The very fact that Putin raised the need to provide Israel's security as a distinct issue and touched upon the Golan Heights as model for preserving stability, stands for itself. It is not accidental that Trump has actively supported it.

"The second, relatively concrete theme – strategic stability and renewal of intense discussions on the entire range of questions­– that too was expected. It is unclear at the moment where it will lead, but Putin did talk about a desire to prolong the INF treaty. This was the easiest gesture.

"All the rest was a demonstration of good intentions, which currently are not backed by anything. The exchange regarding Russia's meddling into the US elections will cause yet another tsunami. They will accuse Trump with everything, while Putin's remark that he wanted a Trump victory, because he had expressed positive opinions about Russia, will be presented as 'admission to the plot one way or the other. Almost for sure, the entire establishment will say and write that Putin has totally dominated, while Trump looked like his mindless groupie…

"The mere fact that the press conference has been scripted by Putin should warm the Russian heart. Yet, it might be a disadvantage from the point of view of future capability to implement something. Trump's advantage in domestic politics is his nonconformist, naughty tough guy image. The electorate loves him for this. When he was aspiring to convene a meeting with Putin – almost alone in the entire American elite, he intended to demonstrate his independence of everyone's opinion and capability to pursue his policy in any circumstances and with anyone. He failed to demonstrate that. Now somebody will have to compensate for this failure. Thus [his] readiness and capability to further develop that pittance, which we have been talking about is placed in question. Anyway, no one expected any breakthroughs."

(T.me/ru_global, July 16, 2018)

In his commentary for Vedomosti, Lukyanov opined that Trump looked quite "pale" which means that back home he might be "ground into dust and face triple fold accusations of collusion with Russia." Lukyanov claimed that in this situation it is impossible to predict how Trump will behave and it cannot be excluded that the US President will prefer to abandon the dialogue with Russia.

(Vedomosti.ru, July 16, 2018)

Mk.ru Columnist Rostovsky: To Outmaneuver Trump Does Not Signify Outmaneuvering The American Political Class

Mikhail Rostovsky, columnist for MK.ru, wrote:

"To outmaneuver Trump does not signify outmaneuvering the American political class. I'm afraid that the return response from Washington will not take long. And it's not just about the 'timid' behavior of the US president, but it is about the Russian president's aggressive position.

"During the open part of the rendezvous in Helsinki, Putin did not try to smooth out the sharp edges – on the contrary he intentionally highlighted them.

"'Have you been expecting humility from my side? You've got my 'humility'. Swallow it, if you can,' … that was Putin's signal, as far as I understand it, to all the numerous American foes of Russia-US normalization…

"To sum it all up: I'm afraid that Trump's 'good compatriots' will crucify him for such a performance with President of Russia. For sure, they've been trying to do something similar to the US leader multiple times, yet Trump still does whatever he wants – meets with Putin, claims that Russia in Syria "has aided us to some extent", and that bad relations with Moscow were America's fault.

"Yet, we mustn't see only the positive. In the recent past domestic political considerations induced Trump to adopt frankly anti-Russian decisions, such as imposing painful sanctions o our economy for example. I really want to be wrong, but after the Helsinki summit similar domestic political considerations for Trump will revive. What is the moral? Here it is: a shy and unassuming Trump is scarier than bully Trump. Please, bring us back Trump the way he acted at NATO. With this type of US president of Trump it's fairly calmer and routine."

(Mk.ru, July 16, 2018)

Russian Analyst Kortunov: 'Trump Is Incapable, Putin Is Unwilling'; 'In Putin's Eyes. Trump Is An Insecure Political Investment'

The director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, provided this assessment:

"Nothing really dramatic has happened in Helsinki – neither negatively nor positively. It just could not have happened, considering the objective situation that Russia, the US and the leaders of both countries find themselves. This situation might be summarized as follows: 'Trump is incapable, Putin is unwilling.

"The first part of this formula is tied to the US president's persisting internal political weakness. Probably, Trump would like to radically change the direction of Russia-US relations, turning Putin into a major partner if not a friend. But he can't. Numerous opponents, skeptics and detractors inside Congress and the Administration impede that. The Anti-Russian disposition in the political establishment and in American society in general impede that as well.

"Any concession to the Kremlin and even any show of flexibility on the Russian track will serve as an additional winning card in the hands of those who have not yet gotten over the 2016 presidential elections results. There is an old axiom, which is again confirmed, only a very strong president may successfully improve relations with Russia. Trump is not yet of that kind, despite his self-confidence and assertiveness.

"In this context, Putin's position is clearly preferable… In comparison with Trump, Putin is capable. But he is unwilling. He does not want to be a generous Santa Claus to his American partner, who comes with a sack full of serious anticipatory Russian concessions on issues important for Trump. Apparently, the Russian leadership is confident that time works for Moscow and there is no need to rush. Apparently also, that in Putin's eyes Trump is an unreliable political investment, carrying very high and unjustified risks. At least for the moment.

"This situation essentially excludes the possibility of a breakthrough in Russian–American relations. Can it change? Of course, it can. But one of two things must happen. Either Trump must 'be capable' of consolidating his positions in Washington, becoming a truly strong leader capable of imposing his presidential will on the political establishment, including the Russian issue, or Putin must 'be willing' - that is, under growing Western pressure and with the increasing burden of the current course, the Kremlin will sooner or later be forced to review its positions on a number of key foreign policy issues, be it Ukraine or Syria. Neither the first nor the second options are currently visible on the horizon."

(Ru.valdaiclub.com, July 17, 2018)

Russian Expert Suslov: 'As For The Prospects Of Russian-American Relations, It Is Worth Waiting For The Results Of The November Midterm Elections In The United States'

Dmitry Suslov, deputy Director at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, wrote:

"The main result of the Putin-Trump summit is that the parties recognized the inadmissibility of further uncontrolled escalation of Russian-American relations and decided to work to stabilize and restore these relations.

"Certainly, the parties did not agree on the so-called Russian interference in the US presidential elections in 2016 and on Ukraine, they did not reach concrete agreements on strategic stability and arms control and disarmament issues. The absence of these agreements is the reason that Russia and the US did not adopt a joint declaration, a communiqué that the Russian side passed to the American side. Nevertheless, the Helsinki summit is a very important event. This meeting can be regarded as the foundation for further Russian-American dialogue on a whole range of issues…

"As for the prospects of Russian-American relations, it is worth waiting for the results of the November midterm elections in the United States. They will be the next turning point. If the Republican Party does not lose in these elections and if there are no new high-profile accusations, statements about Russia's interference in the November elections, then the dialogues will be launched, and this will lead to positive results for the relations between the two countries."

(Valdaiclub.com, July 17, 2018)

Ria Columnist Danilov: It Was Worth Having The Summit Just To See The Reactions Of The Western Media

Ivan Danilov, a columnist for the RIA news agency:

"It's been worthwhile to commit to the summit in Helsinki just for the sake of one reason – to savor the reaction of Western politicians, experts and mediaites. Judging by the intense panic and hatred, it has succeeded splendidly…

"It's difficult to escape the conclusion that the American political establishment incorporates a bunch of politicians, with whom it's just impossible in principle to wage a dialogue, based on a common human position. That's due to a fact that they are incapable of recognize any equality of rights between the Americans and any other state's representatives on the planet. Strange, as it may be, in this context, the pragmatic, occasionally cynical politics of Donald Trump looks good as a model for humanism.

"Looking at media and political reactions for the summit, one might think that America, as a whole, rose up in unison against 'Trump the traitor', yet that would be a mistaken assessment. Many Americans enjoyed a healthy laugh or even a sense of relief aroused by media hysteria. This feeling is based on 'reverse logic' – if the establishment, hated by the voters, is so mad at the President, then the President is doing all right."

(Ria.ru, July 17, 2018)

Russian Expert Zheleznova: No Surprises Does Not Mean Defeat

Russian expert Maria Zheleznova wrote the following in an Op-ed for Vedomosti:

"The main hope, which was fulfilled following the first full scale Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meeting, was the absence of major surprises – this is not necessarily a 'defeatist' result. The Presidents did not put each other into awkward situations by introducing provocative ideas - either somewhat doable or just fantastic. On the contrary, they have carefully played along with each other during the tense moments. This does not look like the start of a beautiful friendship, yet the meeting did not provide a cause for further escalation confrontation between the countries: for two Presidents, who tackle each other in different spheres and world's regions, and whose relations were translated into sanctions, this is not the worst outcome."

(Vedomosti.ru, July 17, 2018)

 

 

 

[1] See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7570, Trump-Putin Meeting In Helsinki – Putin: 'The Cold War Ended Long Ago' – Part I, July 17, 2018.

[2]Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, July 16, 2018.