Sunday, July 09, 2017

Things Went Swimmingly

The world waited last week, like the audience watching the season finale of The Apprentice, to witness the outcome of the Trump-Putin tete-a-tete. If you believe Rex Tillerson, the show set ratings records and was a smashing success. If you believe Russian journalist Masha Gessen, it was, indeed, a success -- for Vladimir Putin:

Mr. Putin has for years — 17 years, to be exact, for this is how long he has been in power — been clear about what he wanted from his relationship with the United States president: He wants to be treated as an equal partner on the world stage and not to be questioned about or pressed on the Russian government’s actions inside Russia or in what he considers his sphere of influence. Despite the friendly tenor of Mr. Putin’s relationship with George W. Bush and the offer of a “reset” made by Barack Obama’s administration, Mr. Putin never achieved his objective — until now. His fourth American president has given him exactly what he wanted: respect, camaraderie and freedom from criticism.

Trump is all about spin. But when you cut through the spin, here's what you're left with:

What was really important was what was apparently missing from the meeting: any criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including its occupation of Crimea, and of the crackdown on political dissent inside Russia itself. In his accounting of the meeting, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson mentioned Ukraine only to say that a new United States representative on the matter would be appointed. He then managed to avoid answering the one question from a journalist about Ukraine and sanctions imposed in response to the Russian war there. Nor did the correspondents at the briefing appear concerned with getting answers on Ukraine. They were much more interested in the details of the two presidents’ discussion of Russian meddling in the American election. This is a topic that Mr. Putin clearly enjoys: It testifies to his political power, apparently unbounded by international borders.

So, was Tillerson right? Was the meeting a success? Yes, from Vladimir Putin's perspective, things went swimmingly.

Image: The Nation


The Mound of Sound said...

It is generally thought that Putin prepares meticulously for any meeting with another head of state so he must have been poring over his briefing books for days in preparation for his sit down with Trump. Putin would have known, right down to the punctuation, what he needed and what he wanted to get out of Trump and how to go about it. To Trump it would have been just a chat between "big guys." I get the impression that Putin could have removed Trump's spleen without the Cheeto Benito realizing it was gone.

Toby said...

I am a bit ambivalent about this. The US is like a busybody, always sticking its nose in where it doesn't belong. It is not America's right to constantly meddle it the affairs of others. That said, it is appropriate for matters of state, the military and security to have a clear understanding of all who share the planet; know your rivals. There's a balance in there somewhere.

We can rest assured that Trump and a very many Americans of all stripes subscribe to American exceptionalism, that double standard that allows the US and Americans special status. I have no problem with them losing some of that special status and having to accept the world as the rest of us see it.

Lorne said...

And to add to that, Owen, Trump also broke with tradition by not having a news conference at the end of the summit. Clearly, he has begun to realize he is out of his league when he has no surrogates running interference for him.

Owen Gray said...

It's remarkable that a man who's made a career out of playing people for fools can be so slapdash in his own preparation for his meeting with Putin, Mound.

Owen Gray said...

One would have thought that the concept of America, "the shining city on the hill," would have been retired by now, Toby. But some myths seem to live forever.

Owen Gray said...

I suspect Trump knew he would be challenged, Lorne. And he lacks the vocabulary, as well as the thought processes to deal with opposition.

Steve said...

In our real life Game of Thrones Putin is a good guy. Crimea has always been Russian, it is the US who overthrew a legitimate goverment and forced the annexation. Can you imagine the world if China and Russia were not there to modulate the USA?

That said I have no illusions about Putin being just as bloodthirsty and capable of war crimes as anyone, like Churchill.

Owen Gray said...

I see nothing heroic about Putin, Steve. We have to deal with him. But no one should see him through rose coloured glasses.