Voices from Russia

Monday, 18 June 2018

Media Reports Speculate that Trump May Meet with Putin in Europe in July

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The Washington Post cited “a senior administration official and two diplomats familiar with his schedule”:

We expect that President Trump shall meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next month while he’s in Europe for a NATO summit. On Friday, in a nod to those plans, Trump told reporters that “it’s possible” he’d meet with Putin this summer.

NATO is going to hold a summit in Brussels 11-12 July. The Post went on:

Trump’s interest in a meeting with Putin became public in March after the Kremlin disclosed that Trump extended an invitation in a phone call with the Russian leader. However, US officials say Trump privately asked his aides for a bilateral meeting ever since he met with Putin in Vietnam in November on the sidelines of a multilateral economic summit. A US official said, “After that meeting, the president said he wanted to invite Putin to the White House. We ignored it. At the time, top aides in the National Security Council opposed the idea of a meeting and said they didn’t view Trump’s interest in a summit as an order to set one up. They decided, ‘Let’s wait and see if he raises it again’”.

The push for engagement with the Kremlin follows months of prodding by Trump, who faced resistance from senior political aides and diplomats questioning the value of meeting with Putin and worry that a tête-à-tête could cast a shadow over the NATO summit in Brussels. Senior officials at the State Department acknowledged that a meeting between the two leaders could, in theory, help resolve long-standing differences on the Ukraine, Syria, cybersecurity issues, and interference in foreign elections. However, some of those officials said a summit between the two leaders is premature given the lack of progress on resolving minor issues, such as the return of Russian dachas on the East Coast seized as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the election.

In late December 2016, the Obama administration introduced a new round of sanctions against some Russian companies, the Federal Security Service, and the Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff. Besides that, US authorities expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland. Washington attributed these sanctions to cyberattacks against US political institutions, accusing Russia of being involved. However, Moscow fully rejected all allegations and refrained from giving a tit-for-tat response at the time.

On Wednesday, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia with the US National Security Council Richard Hooker told us that Washington and Moscow were considering the possibility to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. On 20 March, the two presidents held a telephone call and agreed to hand down instructions to start preparations for a Russia-USA summit. Putin and Trump earlier held talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit held in Hamburg in July 2017. They had another opportunity to negotiate during the APEC summit in Vietnam in November 2017 but managed only to exchange a couple of phrases. On 4 June, Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov said that we’ve taken no specific steps in order to prepare for a summit. Meanwhile, Putin confirmed on 10 June that he was ready to meet with Trump as soon as the USA was also ready for that.

16 June 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/world/1009827

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Izvestiya: Russia and China Confirm High-Level Partnership

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President V V Putin wrapped up his three-day visit to China this weekend during which he held comprehensive bilateral negotiations and took part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. Russia and China signed multibillion-dollar contracts, which included the construction of two additional power units at the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant and building the new Xudabao Nuclear Power Plant. According to experts, the talks set the tone for relations between Moscow and Beijing for the next few years. Putin said the parties confirmed “a very high level” of relations. The Chinese side also positively assessed the outcome of the talks. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs source Geng Shuang said, “The current visit by President Putin is an absolute success”. Zhao Huasheng, Director of the Department of Russia and Central Asia at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, noted:

The meeting of the two leaders was shortly after their election to new terms. For both countries, this visit is the new beginning of cooperation for the next five or six years. It once again showed that the sides are ready to continue and enhance cooperation.

Yang Cheng, a Sino-Russian relations expert from the Shanghai International Studies University, said:

For the first time, India and Pakistan participated in the SCO summit in Qingdao. Amidst difficult relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, there were fears that Indian-Pakistani bilateral tension would affect the SCO’s activity. However, on the contrary, their membership in the SCO made it possible to ease tensions.

13 June 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/pressreview/1009261

Friday, 15 June 2018

Kommersant: DPRK Gains Equal Footing with USA, Secures Concessions

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The historic meeting between the leaders of the USA and the DPRK in Singapore split those who viewed it as the first step towards normalisation on the Korean peninsula and those who called the document signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un “weak” and “without substance”. Kim gave no guarantees of immediate disarmament, whilst Trump avoided direct security guarantees but promised not to carry out annual US-ROK drills. Experts agree that Kim emerged as the key victor since he succeeded in pulling his state out of isolation and achieving recognition of equality from the USA, neither his father nor his grandfather managed to accomplish this. The preparations for the first-ever meeting between US and DPRK leaders was reminiscent of a tremendous reality show and the historic handshake that was an informal outcome of the Singapore summit gave a clear signal to the world… peace and security on the Korean peninsula are in good hands for the first time over the past dozens of years. A diplomatic “Singapore wonder” occurred… the Little Rocket Man turned into an equal interlocutor and a potential partner of the US leader. Aleksandr Gabuyev, head of the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said:

Kim achieved the most important outcome… the signing of an agreement with Washington diverts the threat of a war on the Korean peninsula, which was quite real this winter. Over the past six months, Kim managed to end diplomatic isolation, restore tarnished relations with China, hold two meetings with ROK President Moon Jae-in, host a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs S V Lavrov, and gain recognition by Trump as “a very talented man” who “deeply loves his country”.

Go Myong-hyun, an expert from the ROK ASAN Institute for Policy Studies, noted:

The DPRK denuclearisation path is a Libyan scenario vice versa. The USA halts drills, pulls the DPRK out of isolation, and Pyongyang vowed to “work towards denuclearisation” without any particular timeframe and a plan. Kim pledged to move towards a nuclear-free DPRK rather than “a denuclearised Korean peninsula”.

13 June 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/pressreview/1009261

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Singapore Summit: A Momentous Event Pregnant With Risk and Hope

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The Oxford dictionary definition of the adjective “momentous”’ is as follows:

Of great importance or significance, especially in having a bearing on future events.

Therefore, we could’ve invented that word with the Singapore summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in mind. Peace is desirable anytime and for all time. If I may have a brief attempt at ascending Shakespearean heights, in the affairs of men, peace is one of the last frontiers humanity is yet to conquer. Moreover, these tumultuous and tempestuous times, the lack of peace… which means to say not merely an absence of conflict but instead an absence of the threat of conflict… hangs over all of us like an incubus. Personally, I don’t recall having ever experienced the sense of dread I experienced over the Douma crisis in April. It really did seem that we perched on the precipice of World War III. I like to believe and sincerely hope that having emerged from that crisis the world did so awakened to the folly of relegating diplomacy to the back of the queue when it comes to international affairs and disagreements and pushing the military option to the front.

This brings us to the presidency of Donald J Trump. In Trump, the world has a US president more worthy of serious character study by behavioural scientists, even perhaps psychiatrists, than any other… which I realise is a bold statement considering the previous incumbents of that office. Capricious, unpredictable, unstable, narcissistic, temperamental, mercurial… Trump has been justifiably described as all of the above since entering the Oval Office as the leader of the world’s most powerful country with no prior political experience. yet and yet… isn’t it he rather than Obama or Clinton or Bush who succeeded, while in office, in pulling off such a momentous event as the first sit-down face-to-face meeting with the leader of the DPRK since the state was established in 1948? Therefore, does his success in doing so suggest evidence of method in his apparent madness?

Certainly, more and more are beginning to come round to this assessment. In addition, considering the abrupt shifts in tone and tenor that he continually engages in… threatening conflict and war one day, talking peace and stability the next… why wouldn’t they? Nevertheless here’s the thing… while unpredictability and caprice may be an attribute in the world of business when it comes to negotiating and clinching deals, in the world of geopolitics involving matters of war and peace it carries with it the potential for catastrophic consequences. In answering our earlier question regarding Trump’s success in pulling off a face-to-face meeting with the DPRK’s Kim Jong-un, let us be clear… credit for success in establishing this peace process belongs entirely to Kim Jong-un and ROK President Moon Jae-in. In fact, the only reason Trump is in Singapore, basking in the credit, is down to the fact he really had no choice in response to the Koreans taking the initiative in embarking on positive and constructive dialogue. Thus, the Trump Administration is tailing this process, not spearheading it.

The million dollar question is, “Will it attempt to sabotage it?” The DPRK’s survival as an independent state, given what it’s been through… the asphyxiating isolation in which it’s been forced to exist over decades… is remarkable. This isolation came at a heavy price despite the brave face the country’s leadership maintained for the consumption of its enemies, particularly Washington. In December 2017, UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein outlined the grim reality of life in the DPRK for millions of its people under the most brutal sanctions ever imposed on a state by the UN since those imposed on Iraq between 1991 and 2003. Mr Zeid went so far as to recommend that the UN Security Council conduct an urgent investigation into the impact of the sanctions on the people of the DPRK and find ways to minimize their “adverse humanitarian consequences”.

No matter the obfuscation and attempts to beguile people into believing otherwise, those adverse humanitarian consequences were precisely the effect intended by those responsible for imposing sanctions, turning them into a grotesque experiment in human despair. Moreover, let’s not mince words… the only reason they hit the DPRK with such punitive and cruel sanctions was that it refused to give up its independence and submit to the writ of Washington. As for those who declaim against anything which smacks of an attempt to let the DPRK leadership and government off the hook when it comes to the desperate plight of its people, this conforms to an exercise in treating symptoms as causes and thus defending the indefensible when it comes to the brutal and unremitting role of the Empire in sowing misery and mayhem.

The economic, social, and political development of any given state is inextricably linked to the external pressure arrayed against it. As such, berating a given state over its lack of development in these areas while it exists in the crosshairs of imperialism is like grabbing someone by the throat and berating them for not breathing properly. In sitting down to discuss peace with an adversary that was responsible for the biblical suffering of its people throughout his country’s existence, Kim Jong-un does so in response to the suffering of his people. He more than anyone is aware that there’s a marked difference between a Carthaginian peace, a Pax Americana, and a peace agreed between equals in a spirit of reconciliation and good faith. Pessimism dictates that some wish to impose the former on the DPRK. Optimism hopes that the ROK leadership in Seoul possesses the requisite determination and will to refuse to accept anything less than the latter.

Whatever the outcome… here, let’s hope that this summit and continuing peace process ends in peace with security for the DPRK… the obstacle to normalisation on the Korean peninsula has never been Pyongyang… it’s always been Washington.

12 June 2018

John Wight

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/201806121065340625-singapore-summit-risk-hope/

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