Political commentator ANDREW BUZAROV told what to expect from the meeting of Vladimir Putin with Donald trump, is there a connection between the aggravation of the Donbas and the world Cup in Russia, and what countries will influence the elections in Ukraine.
– Putin and trump needs to meet on July 16. Why this summit is so afraid, more talking about risks, not about the prospects?
– Part of the world fear of the world is waiting for him with a certain hope, so I think that is not quite correct to say that most of the world fears. Depends on who and what he wants to achieve from this summit. I wouldn’t lay any hopes on their meeting. I don’t think they even able to agree on some issues, based on the situation that now exists in the world. Russia in many matters geopolitically engaged in expansionary policy. The Americans used a policy of containment, which was developed after the Second world war, they just apply it in a somewhat modernized form. Now we actually in the phase of the cold war. So I do not think that normalization of relations between the two countries is possible at all in the coming years. Regardless of what he wants trump, part of the US political elite, which is concentrated in the American Parliament, in Congress, opposed improved relations with Russia and just tends to be more rigid position towards Russia on many issues. It is not only Ukraine, but also Syria, Iran, Russia’s intervention in the American elections and so on.
I think that a certain agenda for a meeting already, and, most likely, some issues have already been agreed. The main intrigue on what issues they have already agreed and which will agree. In my opinion, they have clarity on the situation in Syria is to maintain the status quo. There is a certain understanding about North Korea, although Russia is not a major player, China has more influence on North Korea, but Russia’s opinion on the question of the North Korean problem is also taken into account. USA have taken a tough stance on Iran. Russia is now unlikely to worsen its relations with Iran, she is actually the partner of the Iranians in the international arena. So I think that the Americans and the Russians to discuss the Iranian subject, the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, the situation in the whole middle East, since Iran, Syria, and Yemen – all the elements of the global problems of the Middle East, it’s all large metastases of the cancer in the middle East. And Russia as a major player in the Syrian web, of course, important to Americans, especially on the basis of how the future will be Syria.
Of course, the Ukrainian issue will be the main. Although many analysts believe that this meeting in no way improve and will not worsen the situation in Ukraine, but I think they will definitely be a very long debate. And there are at least two reasons why this topic is important. First, a complete stupor and the stalemate in the settlement of the conflict in the Donbass. Does not work format Surkov-Walker, does not actually work “Normandy format”, the contact group in Minsk is only concerned with the question of exchange of prisoners. Effective negotiation of Donbass does not exist. Only America and Russia can change this situation. So I think that they may attempt to intensify and update the work at any site in the Donbass. And the second reason why they must be seriously on something to negotiate or discuss, is the upcoming presidential election. In March there will be presidential elections in Ukraine – in the United States and Russia can not be ignored. I am often asked the question: will Russia how to influence the presidential elections in Ukraine? Will she try to influence the situation in Ukraine? Of course it will. But not only Russia will affect the situation in Ukraine, there are other countries that will affect the presidential candidates.
– Who? Besides America.
– I think the US and the EU are actually interested in the fact that the elections were a maximum stangarone for all requirements of the current legislation of Ukraine and international standards. If they will be irregular, if anyone of the candidates win the elections illegally, then our Western partners can these elections be recognized. In this context, the forthcoming meeting trump and Putin is very important that these countries did not allow the maximum destabilization of the situation. In the Ukrainian political environment, there are different opinions about this meeting. Many politicians are generally silent and do not comment. For example, the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Andrei Parubiy said that the US will not change its position on Ukraine. I also stick to this position. Most likely, the Americans will not fundamentally change, irrespective of the statements trump that he is willing to negotiate with Putin to return Russia to the “big eight”, I think it’s more of a bluff. Olena zerkal, Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs, says that will be a breakthrough in the exchange of political prisoners. I don’t think trump and Putin will be engaged in the discussion of this topic. The leader of the “Opposition bloc” Vladimir Boyko says that this meeting was not entirely positive, because there is no Ukraine, and many issues can be solved behind the scenes without taking into account the views of Ukraine. The views are different.
– There is an opinion that the Crimea could become “a bargaining chip”.
– I rule out this option. Trump always very skillfully makes statements, omission of certain things. If we study the U.S. position in the international arena, we know that when the Americans make any statements on Ukraine, they always tie this to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the de-occupation of Crimea, and so on. And when trump says about the return of Russia in the “big eight” when the press says about some change in coins, I think you need to discuss all of this in the context of Russia’s actions in Donbas and Crimea. This is logical. I don’t think the US will change its stance on this issue. Yes, trump probably wanted to return Russia to the “big eight”, but he knows that this cannot be done without mutual concessions that Russia is now clearly not ready to do. And I don’t see the trend to the fact that Russia is ready to make some concession in the Donbass. Can be ready, but we do not know about. The most important conclusion, in my opinion, we need to do ahead of the meeting, trump and Putin that if there will be some agreement, they will not be officially published. We find out about them after 3-6 months. Because if now there will be some agreement on Ukraine, will not understand nor trump, nor Putin in their country.
– After all, what can we expect from the loud statements of trump?
– Trump behaves as he behaved before the meeting with Kim Jong-UN – he often insulted. Kim Jong-UN called trump’s “old man” and trump said that Kim Jong-UN – rocket man (“rocket man”). Then, after the trip of the Secretary of state Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang, they agreed to meet. And here we see a direct analogy with the current situation, when John Bolton, trump’s adviser on national security, flew to Moscow to arrange a meeting. Obviously, the agenda is agreed, but I don’t think that will be the same epochal meeting with Kim Jong-UN when they signed certain declarations and documents. Here may be the final communiqué, but it will be largely declarative, not the fact that there will be remembered Ukraine. But I think on the Ukrainian question in sufficient detail, trump and Putin talk. In my opinion, they are interested to discuss this topic. At least Putin is for sure.
Before the talks with Putin, trump will attend the NATO summit. If he was there to give any message about the upcoming meeting?
– I do not think that today someone can affect US on the future of NATO. It is a country that dictates many of the issues NATO. But appearing in the press information that might want to withdraw troops from Germany, suggests that there is a certain level of distrust between the members of NATO, obviously, NATO needs some reformatting or changing the system of financing costs. That’s what trump always said. He said that we were tired to bear all the costs yourself, let this connects Germany and other countries. I don’t think there are any tough messages in relation to Russia. Most likely, other countries-members of NATO on the eve of the meeting of Putin and trump will be very careful in their statements.
In General, the schedule of trump’s stay in Europe is very interesting. It needs July 11-12 to participate in the NATO summit in Brussels; then, on 13 August, he will travel to Britain, obviously, to talk about Brexit and the relationship between Britain and the United States. Then, on 15th July, will be the finals of the world Cup, which will be Putin, and trump, of course, will not. Then, on may 16 th, the landmark meeting between Putin and the tramp in Helsinki, on neutral territory. By the way, Finland was one of the countries predicted as a possible venue, trump and Putin for a long time.
– Why there?
– Austria and Finland – the countries traditionally considered as neutral in many respects. Helsinki is balancing between NATO and Russia. Finland is not a member of NATO. It is a country that has a huge border which was fought in his time with the Soviet Union, many Finns were killed. And they refused for many reasons from joining NATO, but it joined the EU. Finland – as a buffer between NATO countries and Russia.
– The current escalation in the Donbas and the world Cup in Russia – you see the parallel?
– No. Because I can see the trends of the past four years. On average once a month, once a half months are escalating in the Donbas, where, unfortunately, killing Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian civilians. Such aggravation is based on the fact that Russia sees the need for that periodic aggravation in order to support the conflict in semi-frozen state. I think all this is obvious and clear. To draw a parallel between the current escalation in the Donbas and some of the world Cup, its beginning or its end, I think, not quite right, because it is not global escalation, it’s not the fighting that we saw in 2014. It is not beyond the scope of the escalations that we have seen in the last three and a half years in the Donbass.
But we can not exclude that after the world Cup there will be some serious lull (in my opinion, a month or two), and then, closer to the presidential elections in Ukraine in March 2019, you cannot exclude anything. To anticipate how the situation will develop in the Donbass, not only on the uncontrolled side, but also on government-controlled parts, very difficult. It is possible that someone in Ukraine is beneficial provocation and a certain destabilization of the situation in Donbas and Ukraine in General. I am not just talking about Russia. Perhaps, in Ukraine there are forces that would like to provoke some hostilities. And I think that such forces can create a problem for all Ukrainians. I hope that the police will warn such provocations.
– What the Western press wrote and write about the world Cup in Russia? We cannot deny that sport is politicized.
– The world Cup, unfortunately, often politicized. People don’t pay attention to the game, and pay more attention to politics. And politicians often try to ascribe to themselves the merits and winning teams. Now the national team of Russia on football has some success. She won the playoff of Spaniards and now will play with Croats. The team plays professionally. And it is necessary to separate the national team of Russia on football from the leadership of the Russian Federation, because it is a different reality. I think it is impossible to give opportunities to the sports interfered with politics, but politics interfered with sport. The Western press on the eve of the world Cup, partly with apprehension belonged to the League. They wanted their teams played. Many politicians refused to travel, but part of the Swedish government went on a strike in the playoffs, because for them it was important to support the team from the point of view of sport. The king of Spain personally came to Spain play with the Russians. The Spanish lost, and perhaps he regretted that he had come, but it already a question of sport.
So I do not think that during the world Cup there may be some provocations in the Donbas. Although we have a bad example when was the Olympics in Sochi, and in fact this coincided with the annexation of the Crimea and the beginning of the events in the Donbas. But I think Putin is now not interested in it, because he knows that the escalation of the situation in the Donbass will lead to further tightening of the West’s position, for the cessation of all negotiations with the Americans and the Europeans. It will put in the uncomfortable position of Russia’s allies in the international arena – China, Iran and other countries are also trying to somehow improve relations with the West. So I do not think that Putin wants to destabilize the situation in the Donbas.