Important Day of July

Mikhail Simonov, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Important Day of July

The world has already seen such titles as "end of the cold war," "cessation of the arms race," "disarmament," "easing of tension," "rapprochement," "reset." Most likely, the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the US President Donald Trump, held in Helsinki on July 16, has yet to get a catchy title or definition. The fact is that, despite a pile of remaining problems - which had remained unsolved both before and after Helsinki - the severity of the relationship was smoothed out. Perhaps, to a large extent.

The two-hour talks of the presidents confirmed the thesis that in the modern world the meeting of top officials, even if it is not resulted in signed agreements or at least specific thematic statements, leads to a reduction in tension. "This is a very good start," Trump said before the extended meeting started. Putin did not object it.

Trump said at a news conference that the relationship between the US and Russia will change for the better, the situation has changed radically, stressing that the dialogue with Putin was "deeply productive," while adding that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility. Putin did not object it as well.

Prior to the meeting of presidents, almost all leading experts named the issue of Russian interference in the US as the most acute of those to address. A well-known part of dialogue between Putin and Trump' was reduced to the proposal of the Russian leader to interrogate the Main Intelligence Directorate officers suspected by the US. Trump did not object and took the idea with inspiration, calling it incredible.

One of the tasks of the US president, according to a number of political scientists, was to persuade the Russian president to engage in joint "control" of China's strengthening. The other was restoring tough sanctions against Iran. Both goals were considered unattainable or elusive.

It is clear that it would be naive to expect that the Russian president, exited by the opportunity to end confrontation with Washington by concluding such an agreement, will give his consent. It would be equally reckless to assume the opposite scenario with a refusal. But now Moscow received wider policy space in relations with all the parties involved in the "project." And these are not just Washington, Tehran and Beijing, but also the European Union - an opponent of the restoration of anti-Iran sanctions, as well as smaller players with their own interests. Washington, in turn, is expanding its existing space. The rest have food for thought, fear, etc.

The presidents expressed willingness to make steps towards each other in the issue of gasification of Europe. Trump acknowledged Germany's right to participate in the Nord Stream-2. This, in fact, is identical with the agreement to increase the supply of Russian gas, i.e. speaking in his own words, to enrich Russia with Western money, as he indignantly described what was happening at the NATO summit that preceded his talks with Putin.

The Russian leader responded "with a grand gesture" - he did not rule out the possibility of restoring Europe's gas supply through Ukraine, while stipulating, however, the litigation between the energy companies in the Stockholm court.

It seems that it was the only time when speaking in Helsinki the presidents "reminded" Ukraine - another serious contradiction between Moscow and Washington. Does this mean that the US is ready for some kind of "sacrifice" for the sake of relations with Russia? Rather, it should be assumed that Trump did not initiate a discussion of topics that are the most painful for Moscow, especially those  with a predictable zero result.

The Western media outlets described the US president's position expressed in Helsinki as "defeatist", "treacherous", suspecting that Trump promoted personal interests in the capital of Finland, but not national ones, cared about his own image, but not about the image of the United States, and most of all he feared to be humiliated by Putin, although due to his behavior, pandering to the Russian leader, in particular, in the issue of Moscow's interference in the electoral processes in the US, that's how a large part of the American or Western society saw him as a result. Former CIA Director John Brennan said that he was shocked by Trump's unacceptable statements.

A number of Western media outlets, using boxing terminology, stressed the Russian president's overwhelming victory, noting that he can be treated with varying degrees of negativity, but his superiority in Helsinki could not be ignored: Putin played the "Finnish game" in relaxed mode like a good chess player, being confident in his abilities and final success.

Details, as well as the Putin-Trump summit's influence on world processes (Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine etc), will become known or understandable over time. For the time being, we should be satisfied that both leaders stressed the necessity and usefulness of such meetings, made it clear that they are ready to discuss some issues and cooperate on a number of others. At some point of the Helsinki meeting, by the way, there was a feeling that all this time we were witnessing a plot with an aggravation of Russian-US relations. Especially when they announced that, despite the difficulties, cooperation has not stopped, and, for example, security during the recent World Cup was provided jointly with US specialists. But the price of such a "game" is still too high for such suspicions to be justified.

"Behind the scenes" of Helsinki there were other, not so noticeable disappointments, which were already mentioned. It's about Ukraine, which president Petro Poroshenko expressed his vaguely worded concern about the possible backstage deal between Trump and Putin, and Georgia, whose opposition, which is also a former power, accused the current authorities of spinelessness, as a result of which, the fate of the country was allegedly not on the agenda of the negotiations between the US (allied) and the Russian (enemy) presidents.

The Russian president "filled" this gap in an interview with Fox News, in which he said that Russia's reaction to the membership of Ukraine and Georgia in NATO would be extremely negative , "since individual NATO members can be contacted on a bilateral basis", recalling about the alliance's broken promise not to expand to the east when Soviet troops pulled out of Germany. In the same interview, the Russian leader confirmed that the relationship with Washington has changed for the better.