Robert J Traydon

The overlooked positives from the Trump-Putin Helsinki Summit

2018-07-23 19:17
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Screengrab)

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Screengrab)

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US President Donald Trump has faced an unrelenting barrage of criticism in the wake of last weekend’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Most prominent were scathing articles published on CNN, one of America’s largest news networks:

The most shameful, stunning moment of the Trump presidency – CNN July 16, 2018
Hillary Clinton was exactly right about Trump being Putin's puppet – CNN July 17, 2018
Trump: A profile in cowardice – CNN July 17, 2018
Donald Trump is a danger to us all. Congress, do something – CNN July 17, 2018
Vladimir Putin must be delighted with his useful idiots in the West – CNN July 18, 2018

What is truly heinous, however, is that the positive aspects emanating from the Helsinki Summit have been completely overshadowed by the narrow, mass hysteria-driven media coverage.

Where an armada of US politicians and mainstream media agencies have been wholly focused on Trump’s apparent contempt for US intelligence services and his flip-flopping on whether Russia did indeed meddle in the 2016 US elections, almost no airtime has been given to the fact that Cold War-style relations between the US and Russia were given a welcome opportunity to thaw.

Arms reduction is a huge positive

One of the most significant – yet overlooked – points Trump raised during the Helsinki Summit press briefing with Putin, was that the US and Russia’s combined nuclear arsenals account for 90% of the world’s nuclear firepower, and that this status quo is both untenable and unsustainable.

Where many US politicians and political commentators were hoping Trump would don his boxing gloves and confront Putin for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its alleged interference in the 2016 US elections, and its ongoing support of Al Bashir in Syria; Trump decided to engage with Putin, open a channel of dialogue and nurture a climate of cooperation between the two superpowers.

To be blunt, the whole world should be rejoicing that one of the world’s most feared existential threats – apocalyptic global thermo-nuclear war – is under the spotlight and just became less likely.

Both Trump and Putin appear eager for further arms reduction – not only to make the world a safer place, but to reduce the enormous fiscal burden associated with modernising and maintaining their unnecessarily large nuclear arsenals. It’s a win-win-win situation for the US, Russia and the world.

Trump also mentioned North Korea in his press briefing, although he stopped short of suggesting that a mutual arms reduction strategy between the US and Russia might incorporate North Korea … and possibly even other nuclear armed nations. Let’s hope the plethora of myopic critics give Trump and Putin some breathing space to explore this possibility.

US is lost without an 'enemy'

US politicians have become so accustomed to Russia being the "enemy" that the prospect of Russia becoming an ally is almost inconceivable to them. The potential for improving relations is viewed with a great deal of scepticism and the ingrained suspicion that there must be some "Soviet-inspired" ulterior motive.

Hillary Clinton was quick to portray Trump as Putin’s puppet, but she failed to consider two pertinent expressions that are generally ascribed to astute leaders:

The first is, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." While Trump has pushed the bounds of diplomacy with America’s G7 and NATO allies, he has stopped short of putting these alliances in jeopardy. Yes, they may be strained, but strained is a long way from broken.

With respect to America’s traditional adversaries – China, North Korea and Russia – Trump is keeping relations good while keeping the politics and business tough. It is certainly preferable to have open relations with the countries that you’re targeting with tariffs and sanctions. Consider how much worse these situations would be if relations were bad – or even worse, non-existent.

Dialogue is better than no dialogue

The second expression is, "Peace through dialogue". This was reinforced by a German government spokesman this week who praised the Helsinki Summit saying that dialogue is the best way to overcome differences.

Although former US president Barack Obama is worthy of much praise, his refusal to engage with Putin was both short-sighted and dangerous. Trump has outflanked his predecessor by opening dialogue with Russia and attempting to improve relations with a superpower that has 4 300 deployable nukes in its current arsenal.

Where Clinton and Obama felt nothing but contempt for Putin and Russia, Trump at least has the sense to respect the latter's superpower status.

If there was ever a serious military incident between the US and Russia which saw rapid escalation, Trump is in a far better position now to deescalate tensions via the "red telephone" than Obama ever was. It is precisely for volatile circumstances like these that dialogue and cooperation between leaders is better than isolation and hostility.

The Trump roller-coaster

As we’ve all witnessed, Trump’s presidency is a roller coaster full of ups and downs. While his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and Iran nuclear deal were serious downs, his meetings with the leaders of China, North Korea and Russia should be viewed as serious ups – despite the hysteria.

It is, however, a tragic irony that while Trump may seek to dismantle one apocalyptic threat … nuclear weapons; he’s exacerbating another one … climate change.

- Robert J. Traydon is a BSc graduate of Engineering and the author of Wake-up Call: 2035. He’s travelled to over 40 countries across six continents and worked in various business spheres. His articles explore a wide range of current affairs from a uniquely contrarian perspective.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  barack obama  |  vladimir putin  |  helsinki
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