Since the Cold War, American and Russian leaders have been drawn into one-on-one meetings – occasionally leading to a diplomatic breakthrough. But the Trump and Putin summit is something much more unpredictable.
Like it or not – and much of the world doesn’t – Donald Trump is now getting into his stride. At home, he has the chance to appoint his second Supreme Court justice in two years, and with that to change the ethos of the court for a generation. Abroad, he’s made headlines with a flurry of summits that have deeply alarmed America’s allies. After Trump-Xi and Trump-Kim (perhaps the most implausible of global meetings) comes the encounter that has been most eagerly awaited – Trumputin. America and Russia will face one another again – as in the heyday of the Cold War – but with a US president whose policies cannot be predicted and who is rumoured to somehow be in the Kremlin’s pocket.
Trump has met Vladimir Putin three times – twice on the edges of the G20 in Hamburg a year ago and again, briefly, at the APEC Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam last November. But Helsinki on 16 July will be the first formal meeting between the two leaders. And in the wake of Trump’s histrionics after the G7 meeting in Canada combined with his remarkable display in Singapore with Kim Jong-un, there is real concern among America’s west European allies about what Trump’s meeting with Putin might portend.
Can we glean hints from past American-Russian summits? Why is this meeting being held in Helsinki? And are we set merely for more diplomatic theatre or – as some fear – is the international order on the verge of a tectonic shift?
During the Cold War the US state department liked to reserve the term “summit” for carefully prepared meetings at which agreements crafted by bureaucrats would be signed with due fanfare. They only happened as the culmination of a process of long diplomatic engagement. The rationale against an unscripted tête-à-tête was explained by the American policy intellectual Dean Rusk in an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine in April 1960, seven months before the presidential election: “Picture two men sitting down together to talk about matters affecting the very survival of the systems they represent, each in a position to unleash unbelievably destructive power… Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who …read more
Source:: New Statesman