Two of the world’s most powerful leaders, President Donald Trump of The US and President Vladimir Putin of Russia had their first one one one meeting on July 16, 2018 in the neutral grounds of Finland. The Helsinki summit,the first involving only the two leaders since the coming into office by President Trump, went ahead in defiance of calls on President Trump by the political establishment in the US to cancel it, due to the indictment of 12 Russians in the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Muller into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US elections.
Prior to this historic summit, many politicians and international relations experts, especially from the US, had criticised President Trump for going into such a summit without a clear agenda. However, a subjecting the whole thing to a critical analysis, I believed there was an agenda known to the two leaders but not to the media or the general public. This may have been deliberately orchestrated to keep everyone in the dark, especially the media, who President Trump does not trust. Indeed, it is highly impossible for President Putin, a former head of the Russian spy agency, the KGB to go into a meeting like this without knowing what was going to be discussed. In addition, I believed diplomats from the two countries were involved in the planning process, therefore it would have defied diplomatic courtesy for the two leaders to meet without an agreed agenda. For leaders of two countries that are described as foes, to have about 2hours one on one meeting without even note takers, was an indication of how secrete they wanted their discussions to be.
The summit discussed a wide rang of issues, including; their nuclear arsenals, cyber security, trade, the war in Syria, Iran nuclear deal, issues in the Korean peninsular, and most importantly the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. Whilst a lot of people were demanding of President Trump to confront his Russian counter part with the election meddling allegations, the confrontation rather succeeded in putting him on a collision course with politicians back home, including his own republican comrades. There have been a serious bipartisan backlash in the US over Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s denial. The political establishment from all political divide and the intelligence community are outraged that, President Trump chose to believe the Russian President over his own intelligence community. Indeed, his acceptance of the Russian denial has played very well into the hands of his political opponents, he has armed them with the very weapon that can be use to destroy him. President Trump’s performace may result in congress putting in place tougher measures, that will make it difficult for him to normalise relations with Russia.
Another disappointment that is worth pointing out, is the angle from which the war in Syria was discussed. The two leaders discussed the Iranian presence in Syria and its implication on the security of Israel and agreed to work together to guarantee the security of Israel. It is disheartening for this two most powerful leaders, who have control over the situation in Syria to meet and not be too bothered about how to end the war that has killed about 500,000 people and displaced millions of others. This is a clear indication of the insensitivity of the two leaders to the suffering of the Syrian people. It is important to remember that, the UN and its security council have not been able to decisively deal with the Syrian conflict, only because of the conflicting interest of these two countries. Why can they agree to guarantee the security of Israel, but cannot agree to end the conflict itself? Doesn’t the Syrian people deserve peace and security just like their Israeli counter parts? Indeed, the summit really confirmed the popular belief that, the two countries are using the Syrian war to further their national interest.
Despite the fall outs from the summit, it is significant note that, there was no concrete agreements reached by the leaders, therefore the summit will not have an immediate impact on the foreign policy decisions of both countries. President Trump could not have sign any concrete agreement with President Putin because they both knew, they could suffer implementation challenges, since such agreement would have been vehemently opposed by the US Congress. The subsequent dialogue that has been propose will therefore determine the future direction of the US-Russia relations
However, the importance of the summit must not be downplayed. With the many challenges facing the world today, including;terrorism, cyber security, threats of nuclear arm race, climate change among others, the world can not afford to have the two most powerful countries displaying gross zabernism in other to satisfy their national egos. Diplomacy must be encourage between them in other to establish a rapport. It will be in the over all interest of world for the US and Russia to work together and not against each other.
Author: Ibrahim Suhuyini
A blogger at ibrahimsuhuyini.blogspot.com and an international relations commentator.