Trump-Putin meet may unravel key issues

By Clifford A. Kiracofe Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/8 18:48:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

President Donald Trump will finally meet in a summit with President Vladimir Putin. Trump opponents in the US and Europe are almost hysterical. 

President Trump was clear during his presidential campaign that he wanted a new US foreign policy. The vision he presented called for better relations with Russia.

Trump explicitly rejected the Cold War and neoconservative worldview and policy of intervention and confrontation. Instead, he emphasized a pragmatic and transactional approach to international relations.

Trump today wants to deal directly and personally with the leaders of major powers. In his realistic view, this is the way to get things done that are in the US national interest and mutually beneficial.

Not surprisingly, from the start of his presidency, Trump welcomed leaders of major countries such as China and Japan. Working closely with China has brought progress on the North Korean issue and Trump is thus upbeat on security in Northeast Asia.

But Trump opponents see things in a different light. Thus, they bend every effort to sabotage his presidency. They attack both his domestic and foreign policy.

Because the mainstream media is controlled by the Establishment they side with Trump opponents. What explains the deep contradiction between them and Trump and how does this impact US policy toward Russia?

On the foreign policy side, the clash is between two opposed visions of US foreign policy. On the one hand, there is the Establishment policy promoting global hegemony. On the other hand, Trump and his supporters want a non-interventionist and independent foreign policy.

Broadly speaking, the Establishment's strategic concept is the continuation of the Cold War in an upgraded version. Containment of the Eurasian landmass is a core objective. So, Russia and China are the primary targets with Iran close behind.

The massive political attack on Trump, which is ongoing, uses "Deep State" assets in key bureaucracies such as the FBI. The Russia angle is directed squarely against any improvement of relations with Russia. Peace and diplomacy do not favor the American military-industrial complex.

The Deep State attack is unraveling and this gives Trump more space in which to operate. Finally, he is able to arrange for a much needed summit with Putin.

The July 16 summit offers an opportunity for the US and Russia to reset relations and develop cooperation on major issues. As is usual in diplomacy there will be areas of disagreement. But the relationship is too important to allow these to interfere with areas of significant agreement.

Key areas for cooperation include Northeast Asia and the Middle East. 

Given the remarkable progress on Korea issues, a helping hand from Russia would go a long way into locking in progress. Working with the two Koreas, China, and Russia, the US can help ensure an irreversible path toward full security in Northeast Asia.

Although the Middle East is a challenge, there are key areas in which US-Russia cooperation is essential. First and foremost is the elimination of radical Islamic terrorism so that Syria and Iraq can be stabilized. During the campaign and during his time in office, Trump himself repeatedly said that cooperation between Washington and Moscow can advance peace in the Middle East.

The timing is good for coordination on Syria because the Syrian Army under President Bashar al-Assad, and with the support of the Syrian people, is in a final and successful phase of the anti-terrorist war.

Trump as a pragmatist can very well see that Crimea is a part of Russia and that this will not change. He can also see that further US provocation in Ukraine will impair relations with Russia.

Overall, there is reason for optimism that Trump will be able to reach agreement with Putin on key issues. The world needs peace and development, not major power confrontation.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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