When Trump met Putin in Helsinki on 16 July 2018, he had already insulted Germany, chided NATO, criticized the British PM, and disrespected Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II in a short space of time.
It is possible to hate Trump; in fact it is very easy to hate him, but the man must be given the credit for being the sole author of his own narrative. ——- He is rewriting the world order.
In Brussels, Trump spotlighted the uneven burden-sharing among the NATO members. As he inflated his own defence spending and downplayed the proportional defence budgets of NATO members the overall message was not far off the mark: If NATO wants to maintain a global role, it must pick the tab jointly.
He accused Germany of being “totally controlled by” and “a captive of Russia.”
“It certainly doesn’t seem to make sense that they paid billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia,” CNN quotes Trump. ——- This one sentence is adequate to interpret the logic behind Trump’s worldview. It also serves as a knife to cut through the thick layers of hypocrisy in the prevailing western attitude.
Trump managed to say in a roundabout but simple way that why does Europe abhor Putin but continues to do business with Russia. Why should every European leader be able to meet Putin but Trump should not?
Equally importantly, why should the USA look at its relations with Russia through the prism of Europe?
In the press conference in Helsinki at the end of their two-hour meeting, Trump and Putin convincingly showed that whatever the differences, it is possible to talk for the sake of finding commonalities.
On the question of Russian meddling in the US presidential elections, Putin said that the court of law, and not the court of opinion or law enforcement agencies, should decide the matter on the base of legally acceptable evidence.
He said that I have been in this intelligence business and I know how these dossiers are made.
On the issue of global oil and gas markets, Putin and Trump seemed to be one the same page. Putin said that the USA and Russia, as global oil powers, should work together to stabilize the markets. He said that too high prices will sap the world economies and too low prices will paralyze the oil sector.
About Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline that will bypass Ukraine for transportation of Russian gas to Europe, Trump expressed his reservations and said that the USA will be a competitor for the same market by supplying LNG. Putin said that Russia stands ready to maintain gas transit through Ukraine [through other pipelines] and extend the transit contract that is due to expire next year.
Both Trump and Putin agreed on the need for broader cooperation against extremism and terrorism.
Putin said, “It’s not always that our postures dovetail exactly. And yet, the overlapping and mutual interests abound. We have to look for points of contact and interact closer in a variety of international fora.”
Trump said, “The disagreements between our two countries are well known, and President Putin and I discussed them at length today. But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we are going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests.”
“Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything,” Trump said as he addressed reporters. “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”
The complete transcript of the Trump-Putin press conference can be found here:
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The stabilization of the oil and gas markets will directly benefit Central Asia, where Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are major hydrocarbon producers. It will also be helpful in defining their relative positions in the emerging world order.
Another issue that concerns Central Asia is the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. Trump said that the ISIS has been defeated in Iraq and Syria but did not say anything about the appearance of ISIS in Afghanistan.
Trump and Putin talked of joint efforts against extremism and terrorism (of which ISIS is a purely violent manifestation) but did not talk of Afghanistan as a territory where this cooperation can take place.
Nevertheless, they talked of intelligence sharing and cited at least one example where the information provided by the USA led to the prevention of an act of terrorism in Russia.
In an earlier but related development, the spymasters of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan met in Islamabad on 10 July 2018. The information about this meeting made it to the media only a few days after the huddle.
Very little is known about this meeting but apparently it was focused on joint strategy in dealing with terrorism, particularly the deepening footprint of ISIS in Afghanistan.
Several witnesses and observers, including Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, have accused the USA of artificially creating ISIS in Afghanistan.
If this is true, the question is: Is it being done with the knowledge and blessing of President Trump?
This is a question that concerns Central Asia very directly. It is an area where Central Asia would need to maintain open channels with Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan for the sake of preventive actions in its own territory.
Regardless of how Trump is ridiculed or berated, if the Trump-Putin summit contributes toward the stabilization of the oil and gas markets, and some positive action on dealing with the growing presence of ISIS in Afghanistan, it would be a great blessing for Central Asia. /// nCa, 17 July 2018