Valery Garbuzov: ”We have to wait and see whether Trump continues to show political will in the future”
Yesterday, a historic meeting between the presidents of Russia and the US, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, took place in Helsinki. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the Director of the Institute of US and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Valery Garbuzov, about the situation in the Russian-American relations on the eve of the summit, the outcome of the talks and prospects for a further dialogue between the two countries.
- Valery Nikolaevich, in your estimation, why did the personal meeting of the presidents take place only a year and a half after the inauguration of Trump?
- The possibility of such a meeting was blocked by the US internal circumstances. Trump was in a very delicate situation: he needed to prove to his country that he won the elections by himself, without the support of Moscow and Putin personally. Due to these circumstances, it was impossible to make any ‘extra’ steps towards Russia, as it could serve as an evidence of his connections with the Kremlin. Such a state of affairs caused a lack of a normal dialogue between the two leaders. Trump's visit to Helsinki caused a stormy reaction in the US, since even this small step was considered as a concession to Putin, almost a proof that Trump was going to report to the one who recruited him, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. Let's see if Trump will continue to show political will as president, whether he will be able to use the mechanisms of the presidential power in such extremely difficult circumstances for him. I must say that it's hard for me to remember any other American president who after building relations with Russia had such a powerful opposition.
- How do you assess the results of the meeting?
- In my opinion, they are positive. This meeting can hardly be called a breakthrough, no one expected the leaders to solve all the problems and rake all the rubble. The goal of the summit was the beginning of a dialogue. If this dialogue continues, the meeting in Helsinki fulfilled its mission by 100%. But if the dialogue stops once again, if both states do not take advantage of this opportunity, then this will be a meeting of missed opportunities.
- Who does the continuation of the dialog depend on?
- Today it depends more on the American side, and not even on Trump personally. If Trump really was the master of his fate, there would be no problems, but behind Trump's back, there is a large American state with its bureaucratic hierarchy. It should be borne in mind that this was a summit of the leaders of countries, relations between which are in the shores of the sanctions regime, the United States created conditions for Russia that stifle the Russian economy and impede further development, these conditions cemented by the American legislation signed by the same Trump. Therefore, the situation is very difficult, I call it an inverted chessboard, on which it is very difficult to play. That is why we have to look for unusual moves.
- What questions should be solved first of all in the relations between Russia and the US?
- First of all, the problem of sanctions should be solved, but it is unlikely that it will be the first issue on the agenda. Rather, the parties will first of all take up the issue on which they are not blocked in their actions - the same Syria, where it is possible to cooperate already literally tomorrow. Unfortunately, the issue of sanctions, which really complicates our relations for many years, is such that it is very difficult to solve, so for quite some time, it will remain somewhere in the background.
- Is there any progress in the Ukrainian direction and Crimea?
- It is possible to cooperate on the situation in the Donbass and implement the Minsk Agreements, including the creation of a mechanism to prevent military clashes using the UN tools supported by the United States. The Crimea question, I think, will also stay somewhere in the background, as the positions of the sides are uncompromising, which means that there will be only a tacit recognition of the positions and their incompatibility.