July 13, 2017

Putin and Trump may have chemistry, but they don’t have physics to make a deal

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Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump may have achieved a certain “chemistry” at their meeting in Hamburg, Germany, as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggests. But neither leader has the underlying “physics” that will allow for any real agreement or the capitulation of one to the other, according to Vitaly Portnikov.

The Ukrainian commentator argues that, as a result, the meeting was less significant than many have wanted to make it into because, at least at the present time, “both leaders simply do not have the platforms needed for an agreement” or even for approaching one in any serious way (lb.ua/world/2017/07/08/370927_himiya_bez_fiziki_trampu_putinu.html).

Mr. Portnikov argues that “Trump cannot capitulate to Vladimir Putin even if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to” for three reasons.

First, “he is president of the U.S.,” and the relative power of the two countries is incomparable even when Moscow “decides to make use of the newest technologies for the destabilization of its opponent.” Second, the state he leads is itself a barrier to any capitulation given how Moscow has been behaving. And third, Mr. Trump can’t because he and his closest collaborators are “figures of an investigation into possible contacts with the Russians during the election” and the president must show “that he does not have any relationship to these contacts.”

But Mr. Putin cannot capitulate to Mr. Trump either, and for three important reasons.

First, Mr. Putin long ago left the world of reality for a world based on fantasies of his importance. Second, “capitulation would mean the collapse of Putin’s authority” in the eyes of his security service cronies. And third, just as Mr. Trump has nothing to offer Mr. Putin, so Mr. Putin has nothing to offer Mr. Trump which is not inconsistent with the political and “what is most important” economic systems of the countries that they head.

As a result, the two could talk as long as they wanted – “an hour, two or even three” and nothing would result, Mr. Portnikov notes. Indeed, what their aides did announce after the meeting of the two shows just how little the meeting mattered as far as key issues are concerned.

The partial agreement on Syria had already been worked out before the meeting and in fact was announced nearly simultaneously in Jordan because it reflected the work of more than just the U.S. and Russia. If the two are going to resolve the Syrian crisis, it will take far more than what has been announced.

As to Ukraine, it has turned out that “the American administration has no new form, that its entire model involves the demand that the Minsk accords be fulfilled and that there be a separate channel between the White House and the Kremlin” – something that was already in place under President Barack Obama.

Kurt Volker, the new special U.S. representative on Ukraine, is known as a hawk, but in fact he simply is someone who “thinks in a sober-minded fashion.” That is indeed “an important signal to Moscow” that the Trump administration is “prepared to wait until Russia weakens and capitulates,” and better to the U.S. than to the EU.

But Mr. Putin “will not capitulate,” and that appears to be something that hasn’t entered Mr. Trump’s mind, Mr. Portnikov observes.

And as far as cybersecurity is concerned, Mr. Trump knows that Mr. Putin is lying, but he has no strategy for dealing with that either. Consequently, the meeting could be praised by Mr. Tillerson only for allowing the two leaders to achieve a certain “chemistry” in their relationship. But “this has no importance at all.”

“Because ‘chemistry’ without ‘the physics’” that operates on the real laws of the world, isn’t going to produce any result at all.

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