Putin-Trump phone call was a positive development, but it's no game-сhanger / News / News agency Inforos
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Putin-Trump phone call was a positive development, but it's no game-сhanger

The call served to update each leader on the other's position concerning various issues but it didn't lead to any visible breakthroughs

Putin-Trump phone call was a positive development, but it's no game-сhanger
Context:

Russia and the US are two of the world's most important Great Powers, so it makes sense for their leaders to regularly interact with one another and update their counterpart on their position concerning various issues, which is exactly what happened during their latest phone call.

The interaction was heavily publicized in the press after Trump's glowing comments about his long chat with President Putin, which triggered his foes into once again ridiculously alleging that he's "colluding" with the Russians despite Mueller officially concluding that nothing of the sort ever happened.

It's important to keep the post-Russiagate context in mind because it means that Trump is now more flexible in his dealings with Russia and might actually have a shot at achieving the pragmatic partnership with it that he had originally promised he'd pursue during the campaign.

There are a few other recent events that framed their conversation just as importantly as the Russiagate one. The US just failed in its efforts to provoke a military coup against Venezuela's Maduro, whose country is a very close partner of Russia's that some American officials have fearmongered could become the scene of another Syrian-like intervention in support of its democratically elected and legitimate government.

Prior to that, President Putin met with North Korean Chairman Kim in Vladivostok ahead of the BRI Forum in Beijing, so now the leaders of both Great Powers can be said to have a personal relationship with the man who leads the so-called "Hermit Kingdom". Just before both of those events, Zelensky won the Ukrainian elections in a landslide and unseated Poroshenko, opening up the prospect of promising changes in the war-torn Eastern European country that's been at the center of a fierce Russian-American competition for influence over the past half-decade.

Trump publicly revealed that he discussed all four events -- Russiagate, Venezuela, North Korea, and Ukraine -- with President Putin, as well as his administration's ambitious arms proposal and even the potential of increasing trade ties, which explains why their talk lasted for an hour and a half.

Despite the upbeat tone coming from the American President, the conversation doesn't seem to have led to any visible breakthroughs but was rather just a pragmatic update on one another's positions concerning these issues that probably showed the other how far their counterpart is willing to go in reaching a potential compromise.

In the order that each topic was introduced in this analysis, the few words that were reportedly exchanged about Russiagate were likely a mere formality that might have even included some lighthearted jokes by one or the other leaders seeing as how there really isn't anything else to talk about on that topic.

Venezuela, however, is a completely different story, and while it's presumable that President Putin warned Trump of the serious socio-political and humanitarian consequences of ramping up his country's covert intervention there potentially up to the level of a conventional invasion, it's unlikely that Trump would have paid any heed to Russia's warning.

If anything, Trump was the one probably issuing the demands in this case and likely probed to see how strong Russia's support for Maduro really is and whether or not Moscow can successfully encourage him to "compromise" with the opposition and ultimately agree to a "phased leadership transition".

Their exchanges on North Korea would have been a bit different because Russia has much less influence in that country and its denuclearization process, so Trump might have asked President Putin to respect the UNSC sanctions on it, while his Russia counterpart would have asked him to give Pyongyang credible security guarantees and sanctions relief in exchange for its phased denuclearization.

Ukraine must have been the most interesting part of their conversation because Zelensky remains something of a mystery to both of them in spite of the rumors that he's really just an oligarchic pawn. His rhetoric was initially promising -- at least in comparison to Poroshenko's -- but he's since backtracked a bit and tried to rhetorically be more "muscular" towards Russia, but it can be all but certain that the Russian and American leaders discussed the future of that country and the West's unilateral anti-Russian sanctions that were imposed in connection with its ongoing crisis.

If there's anywhere that the two might be able to find some common ground, it's Ukraine. Moving on, the arms control agreement that Trump proposed would have likely been broached a bit, but since the American leader isn't an expert in this field whatsoever, the conversation would have probably just been a formal explanation of the general idea being put forth.

As for Trump's remarks on increasing US-Russian trade, that was probably the carrot that he dangled in front of President Putin (with all of its sanctions-lifting hints) in exchange for reaching a deal on Ukraine, Venezuela, and arms control. It should be presumed that Trump is very serious about this too because of his businessman reputation and attendant commitment to improving America's trade relationships with all countries, including its geopolitical adversaries like Russia and China.

Altogether, it can be said that the Putin-Trump phone call was a positive development, but that more work is needed behind the scenes between the members of their permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies ("deep states") if any real progress is to come from their conversation. Their interaction was a positive one and should be welcomed by all observers, but it's far from the game-changer that some might want to believe that it was.

 

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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