On a two-page basis
What can agree Vladimir Putin and Donald trump in Finland.
In exactly one week, on Monday, July 16, in Helsinki will host a meeting of presidents of Russia and USA Vladimir Putin and Donald trump. This will be their first full-fledged summit — last year they met twice, but only in the context of other events. According to sources “Kommersant” in the government agencies of the USA, Moscow gave Washington a two-page draft joint statement of the presidents. The American side is ready to take this document as a basis, but insisted that the summit in one form or another reflected the concerns of the White house about the “Russian interference in the elections of 2016” and had given assurances that “the future this will not happen again”.
The meeting place can be changed
The capital of Finland is an important place of the Soviet-American and Russian-American contacts at the highest levels, here met Gerald Ford and Leonid Brezhnev (as part of the famous conference, 1975), George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. Meanwhile, primarily as the venue of the summit, Vladimir Putin and Donald trump was considered in Vienna. According to interlocutors of “Kommersant” in the government of the Russian Federation, the USA and several European countries, on the transfer in Helsinki insisted a high-ranking American officials (not the President). Versions of why it happened are different: one of the sources said the White house still outraged by the fact that the Austrian authorities did not expel Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain in the “case Skripal” (from Finland was sent to one Russian); the other two added that in Helsinki it is easier to provide security.
Security measures during the summit will be serious: traffic in the city partially overlaps, the center will not work mobile communications. As expected, the talks between the two leaders will be held in the Presidential Palace — the official residence of the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö. Vladimir Putin will arrive in Helsinki from Moscow, where on July 15 will host the final of the 2018 world Cup. Donald trump will come from Scotland, where he 14-15 July is going to play Golf (11-12 July he will take part in the NATO summit in Brussels, on July 13, his scheduled visit to London).
Similar summits earlier often ended important agreements. However, the upcoming meeting, the interlocutors “Kommersant” Moscow and Washington do not expect breakthroughs. Visited recently in Russia, the national security Advisor of the White house, John Bolton, responding to the question “Kommersant” on the possible arrangements of the two presidents, said that “the fact of the meeting can be considered an achievement.” He said that the talks will not be “rigidly structured” and for some time the presidents just talk one on one. At the same time, John Bolton did not rule out that something specific the two leaders will agree.
Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov was more optimistic: according to him, the President can at least make a joint statement “which will outline further steps of the parties and in terms of improving bilateral relations and joint action in the international arena”.
Two sources of Kommersant in the government of the United States said that the Russian side gave us a draft statement in Washington it is now considered.
According to one of interlocutors of “Kommersant”, we are talking about a two-page document, which refers to the importance of maintaining dialogue between top officials, diplomats, military and intelligence agencies of the two countries, the development of economic relations and the promotion of contacts between people.
Cooperation between Russia and the United States named as one of the factors of regional and global stability. The Russian state agencies involved in the organization of the summit, this information “Kommersant” could not confirm.
Former senior Director for Russia in the administration of George W. Bush, now group managing Director Kissinger Associates Inc. Tom Graham in conversation with “Kommersant” said that the joint statement must reflect current realities, otherwise it will not be taken seriously. According to experts, the best would be a joint statement which said that “the two countries recognize the existence between them serious disagreements”, “concerned about the possibility of escalation of contradictions in the permanent confrontation fraught with the possibility of a military clash, ready to take the first steps towards creating conditions that would minimize the risks of a full-fledged conflict and would lay the Foundation for cooperation in areas of mutual interest”.
Guarantees of non-interference
Meanwhile, both the source of “Kommersant” in the state structures of the USA said that Washington is ready to take based on the Russian draft joint statements, but the American side it is important that either in the Declaration or in a separate document or even a verbal statement reflected concerns by the White house about the “intervention of Russian secret services in the presidential elections of 2016”, and voiced assurance that “henceforth this will not happen again.”
Press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov said that if Donald trump will raise the issue of “intervention” in Moscow in the American elections, Vladimir Putin “is ready to repeat once again that Russia did not and could not have anything to do with what takes place such insinuations”.
“The Kremlin never admits the intervention, what would the American side may say, — says Tom Graham.— The best that can come of government, is to admit that the intervention was groups not associated with government. At the same time Moscow will insist that the actions of these groups did not affect the election results. This position can meet Donald trump, but with a smile will be perceived by the political establishment in the United States.” According to the expert, “today, it is unrealistic to expect the Kremlin statement, which would satisfy the entire American political spectrum”.
Director of the Moscow Carnegie center Dmitry Trenin, in turn, believes that Vladimir Putin may agree to record in the joint Declaration that Russia and the United States consider military intervention in the electoral processes in other countries is unacceptable. “Then, at the press conference, the Russian President can say something like, “We never interfered, and do not intend to continue to do so”. Donald Trump will be enough. His opponents — no, but you expect more can’t and they”, — said the interlocutor of Kommersant.
However, Deputy Director of the Center for comprehensive European and international studies, HSE, expert of the international club “Valdai” Dmitry Suslov recalled that the subject of intervention in elections to date, the main for the United States of all connected with Russia. “Its political significance for Washington covers Ukraine, Syria, Iran, and arms control together. This theme is the main cause of the inability of the administration to trump to build with Moscow normal, albeit confrontational, dialogue and a key tool in the hands of the Democrats to undermine the legitimacy of the current President of the United States,” — he explained “Kommersant”.
According to Dmitry Suslov, the main goal of the Donald trump — to create within US the impression that he “harshly and openly” talked with Vladimir Putin and made Russia the firm promises not to interfere in the American elections.
“If this will be followed by a valid reduction, presumably related to Russia’s information campaign in social networks and cyber attacks, the outcome of the summit will significantly weaken the “Russian intervention” in the United States will sharply strengthen the political positions trump and will strengthen the image of the effective negotiator, successfully defending American interests”, — predicts analyst.
In his opinion, the authorities of the Russian Federation “it is able to provide a similar outcome, which, of course, in the interests of both parties”. “At a public level, Moscow can claim at the summit that she had not interfered and will not interfere in American elections and can therefore assure Washington that no authorized its intervention in the elections to Congress in November, the proud will not” — he concluded.
The Syrian formula
Another topic that Donald trump intends to raise in the conversation with Vladimir Putin, judging by the statements of American officials and leaks to the media, is Syria. Let’s remind, that the agreement by Syria became the only practical result of the previous meetings of the presidents. Following the talks, Germany announced the establishment of the South-Western area of de-escalation, which included the territory in the Syrian provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and as-Suwayda in the Jordanian and Israeli borders. In Vietnam, a joint statement was adopted, which confirmed the importance of areas of de-escalation and active-duty military channels.
Until recently, the South-Western area of de-escalation was considered the most effective. However, on 19 June, Pro-government forces of Syria launched an operation to return to the South of the country under the control of Damascus, and the area of de-escalation de facto ceased to exist. However, compared to similar developments in Eastern ghouta claiming the Americans were very restrained. They actually resigned to the fact that Bashar al-Assad regains control of Syria. The only fundamental question for the United States, the activity of Iran in this country and in the region as a whole. 1 Jul John Bolton said that in Helsinki, the presidents touched upon the topic of “withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria.” And if you bring statements from all U.S. sources in recent weeks, emerges the formula: Iran in exchange for Assad (at least his reign for a transitional period). In Moscow, however, deny the possibility of transactions in Syria, especially in regard to Iran. As said Dmitry Peskov, “hardly realistic” for the two countries to decide for the third.
Regarding a possible agreement in Helsinki on Syria, the Russian position was formulated by the Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Moscow, he said, comes from the fact that the agreement on the South of Syria “already exists and was enshrined in those documents and on decisions taken by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Donald trump” last year. As recalled by the Russian Minister, their essence is that the Syrian army will control the border with Israel and at the same time “there will be no concessions to” groups of terrorist groups “dzhebhat an-Nusra” and “Islamic state” (banned in Russia). Sergey Lavrov stressed that Russia “greatly” fulfilled its part of the bargain and now waits “to have done what they pledged”. In other words, no new agreements until the obligations under the old. While his statement indicated that Moscow was primarily dissatisfied with the way Washington has been negotiating with the Syrian opposition in its disengagement from terrorist groups. However, the old arrangements does not preclude the adoption in Helsinki of the new statement on Syria, especially because of operational the situation is changing rapidly.
A week before the summit the Russian victory in the Eastern province of Daraa, where the opposition agreed to surrender their weapons, and the Syrian army came to the border with Jordan. Now we have to decide the fate of other areas, including al-Quneitra and es-Suweida. Here the first violin will play Israel. On July 11, the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in Moscow. As the Israeli newspaper “Yediot Ahronot”, Israel is actively trying to find a formula that will help Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump come to an understanding on the issue of Iranian presence in Syria.
The newspaper claims that Russia promised the Americans and the Israelis to the withdrawal of Pro-Iranian groups at 100 km deep into Syria from the Israeli border. Diplomatic sources confirm that the parties discussed the 80-kilometer line, but then Israel began to insist on a complete withdrawal of the Iranians from Syria.
Such assurances, Moscow can not give. But even if the Israeli-Russian negotiations will not lead to the issue of Iranian presence in Syria as a whole, the fate of the South-Western district can be solved before the summit in Helsinki.
After that, key for Moscow and Damascus unresolved issue in southern Syria will remain an American base At-TANF. As stated at a press conference June 30, foreign Minister of Syria Walid Muallem, “don’t believe anything said about the agreement on the South until, until the US removed its forces from a base in At-Tape”. In the Syrian opposition media reported that the Americans are ready to leave Al-TANF. At the same time, Israeli sources close to military circles, argue that Israel and Jordan insist that the United States never left the base, allowing you to control the situation on the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border and to limit Iran’s influence in Syria. Meanwhile, the presence of American forces in southern Syria gives Moscow the opportunity in response to any requirement of Washington about the departure of the Iranians to remind about the agreement to release not Syrian presence, at least South of the country.
“The main event of the summer”
Another area where the US could use the assistance of Russia, is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Donald trump is in a quandary. The day before yesterday from Pyongyang returned to the Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who was to turn the vague provisions signed at Singapore on 12 June the us-North Korean statement in a specific “road map”. This did not happen: although the head of the state Department after the meeting said he was satisfied with the negotiations, the DPRK foreign Ministry issued a message in which he called the American approach to the talks “gangster” and not leading to positive results.
The DPRK insists denuclearization must precede the “creation of atmosphere of trust” between Washington and Pyongyang, but Donald trump is no time. Specific results he needs for the November Congressional elections, and then presidential in 2020. Russia though is not comparable to the Chinese influence on Pyongyang, but North Korea enjoys a certain confidence. Sergey Lavrov took Kim Jong-UN and the proposals on the meeting between USA and North Korea in the summer / fall of 2017 passed through Moscow. In this situation, Vladimir Putin could help (or offer help) to Donald Trump to influence the North Korean leader.
To do this, however, Washington will need to offer Moscow something in return, but the possibility of Donald trump is very limited. Sanctions against Russia since last year has been codified in the law and to remove them without the consent of Congress is impossible. This also applies to those arrested by the US authorities of objects of departmenet of the Russian Federation.
From the comments of Russian officials, meanwhile, follows that of Vladimir Putin in Helsinki to raise the issue of strategic stability. “The most optimal for Russia the outcome of the summit was the launch of a broad Russian-us dialogue to develop new understanding of strategic stability in modern conditions and new approaches to the mechanisms and regimes of arms control”, — says Dmitry Suslov. According to him, such dialogue should include the military aspects of cybersecurity and development in this area of the game rules. It is necessary to begin the discussion of what remaining control arms (start-3, INF and others) are required, and whether the U.S. and Russia to continue joint reduction and limitation of strategic nuclear weapons. The expert is convinced that “the administration not only trump can afford to launch such a dialogue, but even interested in him.”
Tom Graham also believes that the American side is interested in this subject. He doubts that Helsinki will be able to mitigate the contradictions within the start and INF treaties, but believes that the President can give the relevant agencies in order to intensify consultations in this area.
Another subject on which presidents can raise is the situation in Ukraine. However, apart from confirmation of the importance of implementing the Minsk agreements on settling the situation in Donbas, the parties, according to sources, “b”, is unlikely to be able to show something public.
According to Dmitry Trenin, the meeting in Helsinki need to Donald Trump for political reasons: the White house wants to show that “can resolve what could not be anyone from their predecessors.”
Strive to negotiate with Vladimir Putin in July (but not after the November elections, as previously assumed) the President of the United States, he said, he decided after the success in Singapore. “But we must not delude ourselves: Russia is, as such, trump was not very interested. A few days later, having enjoyed another success in Helsinki, the American President will turn to other subjects,” — said the expert.
Realize it is in Moscow or not, but publicly, Russian officials prefer to speak with optimism. Stressing that the upcoming summit “is of great importance both for Russia and for America and the world,” the Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov suggested that the meeting will be “a major international event of summer.”
Elena Chernenko, Marianna Belenkaya, Michael Korotkov