11.07.2018 Author: Grete Mautner

Helsinki: A Summit that the Whole World Anticipates


There’s no arguing that the ongoing FIFA World Cup is not the only Russia-related event that the international media keeps discussing week after week. One can come across hundreds of articles dissecting every aspect of the upcoming meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the sitting American president, Donald Trump in Helsinki. It won’t be an exaggeration to state that ever since the days of the Cold War, the whole world has experienced that much tension dominating the international stage.

The summit in question will be held against the backdrop of the rapid deterioration in bilateral relations between the US and its closest North America and Europe allies. For Putin, who has stayed in power for nearly two decades, this will be an inaugural summit with a fourth different US president, so he will arrive at it as a political heavyweight.

Last time the presidents of these two major geopolitical powers met in Helsinki, it was March 1997. Back then Bill Clinton represented the Western world and Russia would have Putin’s predecessor – Boris Yeltsin. It was a time when Yeltsin’s health was deteriorating rapidly and a long flight might take a toll on him, while Clinton was in a wheelchair after injuring his leg hurt.

Since 2014, US-Russian relations entered a new confrontation-prone stage. This transition was marked by Washington’s policy aimed at strengthening the rallying its forces in the East, primarily around the North Atlantic alliance. The fruits of this shift we could witness at the final stages of Obama’s presidency and in the first years of Trump’s tenure in the White House What this actually means is that no even those topics that in no way connected to Russia are being discussed through the prism of Russia’s meddling, like the notorious Russiagate, that has turned in one big joke that has seriously overstayed its welcome. However, the area where the threat of a real confrontation between the major powers remains almost tangible is Syria and the wider Middle East.

A long list of contradictions between Moscow and Washington in the Middle East is being aggravated even further by their inability to develop a common understanding of Tehran’s policies in the region. The new American administration doesn’t even try to make a big secret of the fact that it perceives Iran a major threat that can be really damaging to its own interests along with the interest of its closest allies – Israel and Saudi Arabia. In turn, Russia while being fully aware that it is capable of influencing Tehran’s policies to a certain degree, still can not allow a country that actually became its partner in Syria to be publicly humiliated, even at the diplomatic level.

However, there’s no real mystery as to what position will be defended by Kremlin in Helsinki, the question is what the White House willing to put at the table. This means that there’s a possibility that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin can both open a new chapter in the international politics or come to a stalemate, leaving us with nothing but a bare bone for the international media to chew on. The personal qualities of the two presidents can facilitate the attempts to move closer to a common understanding of the conflicting matters, without getting outside players involved. In addition, each of the leaders is inclined to approach the discussion form a purely pragmatic point of view, and can then transfer this approach to future contacts with all sorts of partners and allies. This seems as a highly likely scenario, since Washington has become aware of its limitations after conflicts Afghanistan and Iraq, while Moscow had a similar experience in both Syria and Ukraine, which means that parties are not going to be inclined to threaten each other with any major aggressive steps.

Doctor Jan Halper-Hayes, who has been consulting Trump since the 1970s, has recently shared her opinion about his personality, noting that he is consistently inconsistent, while being reliably unpredictable most of the time. Trump has a deep-rotted mistrust towards international organizations, as he values bilateral arrangements above anything else. According to Jan Halper-Hayes, liberals in the US and other countries have a hard understanding Trump because they take his steps at a face value, while falling to grasp the full picture driven by his explosive personality.

However, it doesn’t seems that all parties are fully on board as far as the need for an international detente is discussed. A number of European countries are fueling distrust in the West, especially the UK, that argues that the Helsinki summit is a cause for an alarm. The Times argues that the prospect of a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin appals British officials, since the sitting US president called for Russia to get readmitted to the G8, wrecking Theresa May’s desperate attempts to paint Moscow in all shades of black in the aftermath of the Salisbury debacle.

What this actually means is that Western neoconservatives got in bed with a long list of Trump’s opponents, bringing a number of traditional US satellite states together with them in a desperate bid to resist any steps aimed at a possible rapprochement with Russia. The better part of the MSM have been boldly ignoring all statements concerning the need for a pragmatic approach in the relations between the US and Russia for weeks. For instance, Reuters would tell the world that American allies are deeply concerned about the upcoming meeting, while failing to present a single quote of a particular official who could have been suffering from this alleged severe anxiety. Nevertheless, the agency suggested that Great Britain and Ukraine would not be pleased with a possible improvement of relations between Russia and the United States.

It’s been noted that neoconservatives and other Republican hawks are all horrified, after having pressed for something close to war with Moscow. Russia’s critics present a long bill of Russia’s alleged wrongdoings, including the so-called Russian interference in the 2016 election along with the so-called annexation of Crimea in 2014. However, it clear Washington has been promiscuously meddling in other nations’ elections for decades, with a long trace of evidence being left in its wake.

The American Conservative would state that Carnegie Mellon’s Dov H. Levin figured that between 1946 and 2000 the US government interfered with 81 foreign contests, including the 1996 Russian poll. Retired US intelligence officers freely admit that Washington has routinely sought to influence other nations’ elections.

While accusing Russia of the so-called annexation of Crime, Washington would gladly keep quiet about its dismemberment of Serbia, with the US detaching Kosovo triggered by a blatant NATO intervention the civil war growing out of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Back then the West was all too happy to ignore the post-victory ethnic cleansings carried out by Albanian Kosovars. All this constituted a criminal disregard to the norms of international law, but the MSM couldn’t care less about all these matters.

All these facts make Washington’s complaints about Russia seem a bit too hypocritical for anyone’s liking. But the US is in no position to complain, as it orchestrated the massive Syrian massacre that is being presented to the international community as a civil war, in spite of hundred of thousands of foreign mercenaries fighting on the side of anti-government forces there. Alas, the US has once again come to Russia with unclean hands.

That is why one should be treating with extreme caution those unfounded claims about Trump being all too willing to make peace with Russia that are made by both the neoconservatives and war hawks. The latter have been making too good a living from exploiting the image of an enemy and seems unlikely that they are going to turn their backs on it knowingly.

Everybody has known Trump’s position on Russia for a long while. During the election campaign, he stated that America should be viewing Russia an enemy, which was a typical approach of the Obama administration, adding that the two countries need to find common grounds to establish cooperation. Trump has once again reconfirmed this position on Fox News, describing those who criticized him for his future meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as stupid people. Voters knew about Trump’s views, so they chose him over Hillary Clinton, which has been a die hard warmonger in the views of the Western public for far too long.

Hopefully the upcoming summit will begin the difficult process of rebuilding a working relationship between Washington and Moscow, since the international community is going to be the ultimate winner in this process.

Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.