Posted by Curt on 18 July, 2018 at 12:05 pm. 5 comments already!


On a substantive level, it is impossible to understand the outcry against President Donald Trump following his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Trump met with Putin because as president, he is required to meet with the leader of Russia just as every U.S. president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to meet with his counterpart at the Kremlin.

U.S. national security and indeed, international security are dependent on the leaders of the two powerful nations developing cooperative relations. The ability of U.S. and Russian leaders to work together plays a key role in preventing another world war. It would have been a dereliction of duty if Trump had not met with Putin.

This brings us to the substance of the meeting, which was exceedingly positive and constructive.

Since Putin ascended to power as Russian President in 2000, there has been an ongoing debate over what type of leader he is. Many commentators and area experts have argued that Putin is an ideologue, whose ambition is to spread Russian influence worldwide at America’s expense. Certainly there are people in Putin’s inner circles who harbor such ambitions.

Many other commentators and experts have argued that to the contrary, Putin is interested in power for power’s sake. He is not moved by a grand vision of Russian global dominance. Rather, he is moved by the twin forces of financial interests and nationalism. He seeks to empower Russia, but is capable of cutting deals with whoever makes him the best offer. In this interpretation of Putin, he is someone who is willing to work with the U.S. or Israel against Iran, if they make him a better deal than Tehran. By the same token, he is willing to attenuate Russian ties with China in favor of stronger relations with the U.S. is he believes that his interests are better served by Washington than Beijing.

In his opening remarks, Putin put an official end to the debate over his intentions. “The Cold War is a thing of the past,” he declared.

“The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of the remote past – it’s a vestige of the past.”

If Putin’s statement of his intentions and his outlook were the only thing to have come out of the summit, it would have more than justified the meeting. But that was only the beginning.

Two critical issues, Iran’s presence in Syria and North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, were the subject of a significant amount of attention from Trump and Putin during the press conference. Their remarks on both subjects made clear just how critical the meeting was for U.S. national security interests and for global stability in the short and long-term.

Before they met in Helsinki, the prospect of war between Israel and Iran/Hezbollah in Syria was all but certain. On Monday, Syrian regime forces — which are dominated by Iran through its Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, Hezbollah units, and Iranian-controlled Shiite militia forces — began their press to seize control over the Quneitra region on the Syrian side of the border with Israel.

If Iran is able to entrench its own forces, or Hezbollah forces, in Syria generally, and along the border with Israel specifically, Israel will have to go to war to eject Iran by force. Israel simply cannot accept a strategic environment that involves a permanent Iranian presence in Syria, particularly given that Iran controls Lebanon through Hezbollah.

In their remarks, both Putin and Trump said that they are committed to Israel’s security. Putin said that he accepts Israel’s position that the 1974 disengagement of forces agreement between Israel and Syria must be implemented. The agreement bars Syrian military forces from deploying to the border with Israel and limits their deployment in the area adjacent to it. Trump stated outright that the U.S. supports Israel’s efforts to prevent Iran from entrenching its forces in Syria.

Both leaders also expressed their admiration and respect for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

These remarks were significant on two levels. First, they reduced the prospect of war by communicating key messages to Iran and Hezbollah.

Trump’s statement that,“the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS” dovetailed a statement by National Security Advisor John Bolton ahead of the summit. Speaking Sunday with ABC News, Bolton said, “I think the president has made it clear that we are there [in Syria] until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East.”

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