Thursday, June 28, 2018

Putin-Trump ‘Summit of Two Dreamers’ Won’t Lead to Any Real Agreements But Will have Negative Consequences, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 28 – Even before he became president, Donald Trump declared that “international politics is based on a system of deals,” a view that he has sought to implement since gaining election and that has sparked fears he will do a deal with Vladimir Putin at their upcoming summit that will harm others, Vitaly Portnikov says.

            But people should relax because the Helsinki meeting of the two will end like all other meetings the US president has taken part in with dictators, without any agreements, the Ukrainian commentator says, a pattern will continue even if he is reelected and adds “the most experienced advisors to his team” (

            “The Putin-Trump meeting is a meeting of two dreamers,” Portnikov continues. “One dreams about a simple world in which all problems are solved with the help of deals and he comes out as the head of this world and its lover at one and the same time. [In short,] Alexander the Great and Charlie Chaplin in one glass.”

            “The other imagines himself as the head of a superpower which decides the fate of the world and at the same time the informal master of a secret situation.” That is, he is “Stalin and Koreiko [a figure from Ilf and Petrov’s novel, The Golden Calf] at one and the same time,” the commentator says.

            “Of course, the two of them should be meeting with a psychiatrist and not with one another, but they are trying to use their partner as a psychiatrist and they are miscalculating.”

            Portnikov argues that “Putin will not conclude a deal. He deceives his partners with deals. At the same time, Trump has nothing to offer Putin. He can’t lift sanctions. He can’t ‘give’ Putin Ukraine and even Syria. He can’t solve the issue of oil prices. Despite this, Putin is certain that Trump can do everything that he wants.”

            But the Kremlin leader is wrong: “this gold fish swims in the aquarium of Congress and of American public opinion. And this aquarium of possibilities is hardly an [unlimited] ocean].”

            As a result, “the Trump-Putin meeting may end as ended Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un: with declarations about intentions and inconsistence that arouse suspicions and bewilderment.” That was underscored by Kim’s latest moves even as Trump’s national security advisor came to Moscow.

            “In the final analysis,” the commentator says, “Kim Jong-un needed a meeting with Trump for exactly the same reason Putin does: not for an agreement, not for a search for compromise but rather as an indication of his own greatness.” That’s why the meeting won’t lead to the big “deal” some predict.

            According to Portnikov, “the most interesting thing is that Trump will never be able to understand this, nor will his followers. They will convince themselves that by meeting Kim, Trump prevented a big war on the Korean peninsula, and by meeting with Putin, preventing in general a third world war.”

            Trump and his supporters “simply cannot understand that Kim didn’t intend to fight with anyone,” engaged in a bluff to get Trump to pay attention to him, and as a result, transformed himself “from a marginal leader of a poor country into a serious partner for his neighbors.” Trump gave him legitimacy “but didn’t deprive him of the bomb.”

            “And that is the really serious result of the meeting in Singapore,” Portnikov suggests.

            “Putin doesn’t need legitimacy, but he does need the fear of those who count on the defense and support of the United States in their own conflicts with the Kremlin regime.” He needs them to feel that soon there won’t be any more support coming from that quarter and that they must defer to him.

            It would thus be “shortsighted” not to see that the upcoming summit will have consequences but they won’t be in the form of accord. Instead, “each such meeting” between a Western leader and a dictator leads to “a revision of values” and each such revision “reduces the number of people who are guided by these values and view the US as their defender.”

            “Trump may think that his dialogues with dictators make the world more secure,” Portnikov says. “But he is mistaken. Each meeting of the leader of the democratic world with a dictator makes the world more dangerous and less predictable. Each such meeting forces many people to doubt that the democratic world in general exists.”

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