It’s probably foolish for me to speculate about the Trump/Putin summit, historically even what appear to be highly organized and extensively prepared meetings between world leaders can take on a life of their own.  For example a series of meetings between President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev began with an effort to simply reduce fears of nuclear war and moved to the point at with Reagan himself appeared to accept the thought of total nuclear disarmament – something which both shocked and appalled most of his high level advisors.

It appears that those same advisors were totally ignorant of the fact that only a short time before, Soviet fears of a preemptive western decapitation strike had escalated to the point where the Russian leadership was itself seriously considering its own senior military staff requests for a nuclear first strike on the United States (if that is news to you then you have not read Surprise Attack). It’s certainly not unknown to find senior staff scrabbling in trying to keep up with remarks and press statements following personal meetings between world leaders.

In regard to the Trump/Putin summit, the most recent statement from President Trump is that it will be an “easy summit” and I suspect that is quite true; there is little doubt that there is less discord between he and Putin than between he and EU and NATO leaders. Most recently he has even remarked that if NATO steps up its spending it is still a problem since that won’t necessarily help the American trade balance with Europe.  Certainly the meeting with Putin does not appear to be the traditional East/West meeting but purely a meeting in regard to mutual U.S. and Russian Federation interests.

It will also be made easier due to the fact that Putin has already accomplished most of his tactical goals in terms of fragmenting both the EU and NATO and is well underway towards significantly improving Russian political/military influence over much of Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East. The success of nationalist party success across Europe has also opened new venues for increased Russian influence, with Italy only being the most being the most visible example. Of course just to make sure Europe doesn’t forget Russia is in the room:

Given his success, I suspect Putin will take a very soft line, including pushing for mutual security accords to address the fighting in Syria. Russian success there has now left Russia in control of much of the southern border with Jordon and that is exactly the sort of value add that Putin would like to showcase in terms of Russian military support. He may even offer something similar in regard to the Ukraine, a security agreement which would leave the breakaway territories in place as well as the occupation of Crimea. Reduce the fighting, provide some relief to the migration of refuges – trade stability for geopolitical influence.

It’s hard to see Trump not accepting such proposals and the issue of sanctions may not even be raised, with the increase in oil prices due to the American moves again Iran, Russian revenues are bouncing back. With a pending trade war in Europe and Asia, Putin can profit by simply setting on the sidelines.

Beyond that it’s not impossible to see talk of something more spectacular, something like a joint agreement in space exploration or even a joint lunar mission. Russia would benefit in a number of ways from such an agreement and it’s one of the few areas of joint Russian/American cooperation that would be solid ground for moving forward.

Beyond that, Putin will register his concerns about NATO and probably repeat the Russian opposition to the American anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe.  If he does and Trump agrees, it will be a sure sign to the East that it better rebuild its political links to Moscow (actually putting the systems there was nonsense in the first place and Russia has every reason to question why they are there; they make no strategic sense and are simply an artifact of the ongoing American obsession with Iran).

Their continued existence also illustrates that all presidents can make mistakes but only some know how to clean up after their predecessors without public embarrassment.  That particular issue could have been easily resolved with Aegis anti-missile cruisers in the Mediterranean. When JFK took the IRBM’s out of Turkey in the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis, he simply moved a Polaris ICBM sub into the Mediterranean – quietly maintaining and likely improving the American nuclear strike position.

So I’ve talked at some length on Putin’s agenda, what about Trump?  Objectively I can only say his goal is to assert his own political power by meeting with Putin in a total rejection of all concerns and issues with Russian political warfare.

I would speculate he would like to be able to come away able to declare “security wins” as he did from the North Korean meeting, as well as some new items of joint Russian/American cooperation. Overall my take is that his agendas are essentially domestic and not global – while Putin’s are just the opposite. Given that, it may indeed be an “easy summit” for both leaders.



4 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:


    Some early indicators from this current overseas trip that Trump is on:

    a) A very clear focus on attacking Germany.
    Some of the criticism Trump makes of Germany has some validity (defence spending , too sanguine a view of reliance on Russian gas supplies (ironic, coming from Trump) and structural imbalances within the Euro zone that favour Germany and disadvantages southern Europe. The aim is clearly not to be constructive however, but aid those forces trying to split the EU up. Germany is singled out as it is the strongest individual country in the EU.

    b) Very clear that the USA is aiding extreme nationalist groups across Europe (as are Russia).
    Recent comments by the US ambassador the Germany to that effect are complimented by Bannon’s presence in London working with representatives of a number of these extremist groups.

    c) Trump is attempting to add support to the far right in the UK to attempt to undermine a pragmatic deal on Brexit and precipitate a hard Brexit.
    Trump’s comments on this subject are extremely undiplomatic. Paradoxically they are likely to irritate 90% of the UK population. Ironically they have helped confirm my judgement (as someone who deeply opposes the entire concept of Brexit) that May’s recent proposals are something I could just about live with for now. After all, if Trump opposes them it must be good for the UK and Europe.

    So far the indicators all seem consistent with attempts to break up Europe into small weak nations that are more easily dominated. Here is the UK the far right are banging on about the UK being a ‘vassal’ of Europe when the real danger is that, unless we wake up and smell the coffee with all this, we will end up as vassals of the USA or Russia.

    My hope is that this is all so blatant that Germany will snap out of it’s ‘rabbit frozen in the headlights’ state of denial about all this and that most people in the UK will decide that we have get to a pragmatic Brexit and from there start repairing the damage done in our relations with Europe, working very closely with Europe to defend Europe and or way of life and values.

    I never thought I would ever say anything like this, but unfortunately we need to begin to think about how to secure our way of life from attack by both the USA and Russia. That is a big topic. too much for today (and too depressing for words) but will involve utilising the current crisis, and what is probably going to come, to attempt to push for deeper integration in Europe, developing deeper security relations between the EU and the UK and supporting European defence industries, a real push towards renewable energy (energy independence) and thinking about how to start hitting back. Breaking the links between the UK and USA would have phenomenal consequences for the UK that everyone is just hoping this phase passes and we all get back to normal in 2021. Unfortunately this is to some extent a logical adjustment of US policy that has rather lagged the end of cold war 1. It also reflect very deep seated features of American society, history and culture and may not therefore be a total aberration. Tragically we in the UK and also in Europe need to begin to think the unthinkable

    It absolutely breaks my heart.

    • larryjoe2 says:

      I do plan a wrap up once the summit is over, evaluating my prognostications, but I would say that its best to keep in mind that yesterday both the Senate and House passed resolutions of commitment towards NATO, that over the last couple of years the level of US military support for Ukraine has seriously escalated and may do so further – much more so than under Obama. In the longer context there is a fundamental issue that Europe has always had a problem stepping up to supporting a military counter to Russia. JFK was appalled by that and hugely frustrated by the fact he might have to go to tactical nukes over Russian moves against Berlin..but he did develop a plan for that (see Pony Blanket in Surprise Attack). And France under DeGaulle fragmented NATO military capability to a major extent.

      Europe and especially Germany have some huge energy problems they do need to address and we all have the fundamental problem with dealing with a new era of internet enabled political warfare (not cyberwarfare per se but socio/political warfare). In the longer perspective I suspect this is just one more instance of the American tendency to periodically go isolationist, we’ve been there before. Trump is an artifact of domestic American politics, his personal mode of operations is to create chaos and take advantage of it; at the moment its really most important for everyone involved not to let themselves get sucked into that chaos. Its a bit like a tornado, destructive locally for a time – but it passes.

      • Anthony M says:

        I agree with much of what you say, up to a point. A fairly key question however is the extent to which the substance of Trump’s foreign policy moves (behind all the noise) is a total aberration or reflects a policy perspective that will continue. For a while I took it as a total aberration but the similarities to the 1920s and, from a certain perspective a degree of internal logic, makes me think we have to factor in a real risk of things continuing towards a new world order beyond 2020.
        In either case damage limitation, lobbying, delay etc are very important. If there is a deeper shift going on then that is not enough and we in the UK and in Europe (along with everyone else) will have to work out a strategy for dealing with this. Here in Europe that largely amounts to a choice of becoming vassals of either the USA or Russia, or coming back together, increasing our own capabilities and reducing our strategic weaknesses such as energy dependence.
        Don’t expect much to come out publicly from Helsinki immediately beyond warm words. Actions speak louder than words, so it may take a while to discern any shifts in policy.

      • larryjoe2 says:

        Certain elements of what Trump is channeling are not an aberration. Those elements have to do with a resurgence in both nationalism, nativism and to a degree racism as well. You will find those elements as much of a factor in Putin’s success in restoring his popularity in Russia as in Trumps American base. You will find them in the shifts in European nationalist politics and I dare say in Brexit. At the heart of it all you will find the huge population shifts going on which are driven by wars in the Middle East, the fall out from radical Islam across that region and across northern Africa and in the America’s the devastating results of drug politics on Central American nations.

        Massive immigration scares people, it always has and always well. Radical religion scares people as much now as radical Communist activism did in the last century. And certain politicians will always capitalize on fear. At the moment all of them are covering up the heart of what they are channeling with economics, its a much nicer word but its truly a cover, nativist fear is the heart of the matter, not economics. If this offends anyone, I’m sorry but at my age I’ve seen too much of this and I’m over pulling punches.

        My view of what is specifically going on with Putin and secondly Trump is a bit different since it relates strictly to Puthin’s goals (Trump has little to do with it at the moment, Putin is driving the geopolitics, especially in regards to Europe and the Middle East). At the moment I’m frustrated in discussing that here in any detail since the context for my remarks is developed over hundreds of pages in Creating Chaos and without that backstory anything I say is far too superficial. The good news is that its supposed to be available this week and hopefully soon I’ll be able to discuss it here with some concrete references.

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