Helsinki Summit

Helsinki Summit

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The 2018 Russia–United States summit was a summit meeting between United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland. According to the article “Trump, Putin Helsinki summit today” (16th of July 2018 – Daily News) the summit was officially called the #HELSINKI2018 Meeting by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was hosted by the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö. The summit took place in the Presidential Palace and marked the first official meeting between the leaders after previous unofficial talks between Trump and Putin at the G20 Hamburg and APEC Vietnam summits held in 2017.Topics Trump announced to be discussed at the summit included the situations in Syria and Ukraine. No communique was issued following the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, underlining the off-the-cuff informal diplomacy in which Donald Trump specialises. The absence of an agreed statement leaves secret the status and extent of any practical agreements reached either between the US president and his Russian counterpart or in the later wider meeting between officials. But in the two leaders’ joint press conference on Monday, subsequent interviews and briefings, the outlines of some agreements emerged, with little sign that Russia has given ground in return for Vladimir Putin being brought in from the cold. In that press conference leaders from both parties have agreed on some areas.

  • Economic relations

Putin, in his Fox interview, argued Russia was too large a country to be sanctioned and isolated, but Trump was not asked in the press conference about the future status of sanctions. Putin appears to be banking on a working party consisting of captains of industry to open a dialogue on future economic relations, pointing out US trade into the Russian market is minuscule in comparison with European trade. Putin is hopeful that business voices will call for sanctions to be lifted.

  • Crimea

The single greatest barrier to sanctions being lifted remains the Russian annexation of Crimea. Putin in his Fox News Interview said he and Trump had disagreed about the status of Crimea and in effect, the two men agreed to differ. The Putin position is that Crimeans voted in a referendum to return to Russia, and this vote should be accepted, just as the Falkland Islanders voted in a referendum to remain part of the UK. There had been speculation that Trump would cede Crimea’s departure from Ukraine as a fait accompli so removing one reason to retain sanctions. On the wider issue of Ukraine, Putin said he had urged Trump to put pressure on Ukraine to do more to comply with the Minsk accords. He also laid down a marker that Ukraine must never join Nato.

  • Syria

The assumption in both leaders’ remarks was that the civil war in Syria was coming to a close, but Putin defended the need to crush terrorists in south-west Syria while keeping the forces of Syria and Israel separated, referring specifically to the treaty of 1974 that ended the Yom Kippur war and designated the lines of separation between Israel and Syria. He made no reference to the future status of Iranian-backed troops inside Syria, but Trump said the “United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against Isis”. Neither Putin nor Syria is prepared to expel Iran from Syria. At issue is whether an agreement can be reached that keeps Iranian-backed militiax at a fixed distance from the Israeli border. “Creating safety for Israel is something both Putin and I would like to see very much,” Trump said.

  • Reconstruction of Syria

Trump appears to have gone further than the EU in saying he is willing to help with the reconstruction of Syria, something the EU has insisted must be conditional on a wider peace agreement. Trump set no condition, saying: “If we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and on a humanitarian basis … I think that both of us would be very interested in doing that and we are. We will do that.” Putin did suggest he might be willing to merge the Astana talks – Iran, Russia, and Syria – with the so-called small group – France, Britain, Germany, Jordan, the US and Saudi Arabia – something that the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has sought for more than a year.

  • Nuclear talks

Putin said the two agreed to hold talks on the extension of the Start treaty that expires in 2021, but he said he wanted experts to examine whether the US was compliant with the terms of the treaty. He raised the perceived dangers represented by the US anti-missile defence system, but said he wanted to negotiate on the Intermediate Nuclear Treaty, the 1987 treaty that banned all US and Russian ground-launched missiles of intermediate range – between 500 and 5,000km.

  • Energy

Trump seemed to be more accepting than previously that a gas pipeline from Russia via the Baltic sea into Germany will be built. Putin promised he would continue to transmit gas through Ukraine once the current contract expires and after Nordstream 2 is built, so providing Ukraine with badly needed funds. But he said this was conditional on the dispute between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz being settled in the Stockholm arbitration court. The court earlier this year ordered Gazprom to pay Naftogaz a net $2.56bn saying the Russian gas giant did not fully utilise Ukraine’s gas pipeline to Europe as contracted. Gazprom has appealed against the decision and blocked an attempt to seize its European assets.

Anyway, response for the Donald trump was not good after summit. Even US officers criticized Trump after the meeting 18th July 2018 Daily news published the article “Trump under fire”. According to that US President Donald Trump returned from his European tour to face ire in Washington where US intelligence officials and senior Republicans were denouncing the President as “shameful” and “disgraceful” after he refused to challenge Russian leader Vladimir. Republican Senator John McCain said Trump’s seeming acceptance of Putin’s denial was a historical “low point” for the US Presidency and the Helsinki summit between the two leaders a “tragic mistake.”

But 5 days after the Helsinki summit held Trump invited Putin to the Washington. Trump invites Putin to Washington” (21st July 2018 – Daily News) article said that Trump said “getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia’s a positive, not a negative. Then Trump said “Now with that being said if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had,” he said of Putin. Furthermore “I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed,” Trump said. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that meeting may come this fall. President Trump asked (National Security Advisor John Bolton) to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway,” Sanders tweeted. The invitation came as an apparent surprise to the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats when he was told about it during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

Trump foreign policy relations will anyway go down in the history as one of the best times ever. His foreign policy can be seen as insanity but he is going away with it. According to the article “Why Trump is getting away with foreign-policy insanity” (31st July 2018 – Daily News) Trump’s foreign policy performances are remarkable. Anyhow criticism from the US authorities remain same.  Former CIA head John Brennan remain same. He said that “Donald Trump is either an asset of Russian intelligence or really enjoys playing one on TV.” And Trump’s performance at the summit was “nothing short of treasonous.

Conclusion

Since becoming president in January last year, Trump has sought to improve ties with Moscow — even as Washington tightens economic sanctions. “A repeat of the June G-7 summit fiasco would weaken Trump’s position and tempt Putin to strive to widen the emerging differences between the United States and its European allies,” said by Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton. Furthermore, he said in contrast to his tweets, Trump shies away from confrontation in face-to-face meetings. If he ducks or soft-pedals difficult issues such as Ukraine or election interference, Putin will take Trump for a sucker and play him accordingly.

The domestic political fallout from Trump’s performance in Helsinki will continue on for a while. Few concrete policy proposals were suggested and though the entire affair appeared staged for public relations purposes, the press conference did suggest a few potential avenues for U.S.-Russian policy cooperation.

 

~Charuka Madusanka

 

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