The Trump-Putin bromance reshaping the world

From Russia with love: Trump said “there was no collusion at all” to sway the election. © Getty

Was the summit a good sign? Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin symbolised a new form of competitive, personality-led diplomacy that could upend the established world order.

“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago.” That was President Donald Trump’s extraordinary message as he stood beside Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, following a controversial summit in Helsinki yesterday.

The agenda for the meeting had been vague, in line with Trump’s off-the-cuff approach to diplomacy. In two hours of one-on-one talks they discussed Syria, denuclearisation, and their shared desire to improve ties between the US and Russia. Putin declared the Cold War “a thing of the past”.

Trump was under pressure to confront Putin over Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, for which 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted by the US Justice Department just last week. Trump, however, said he believed Putin’s “powerful” denial and did not see “any reason why” Moscow would be responsible for the attack.

His comments have been met with disbelief by the US and its allies, who perceive the US president as willing to turn against his own security officials for the sake of smoother relations with Russia.

Those Western allies, whose ties with Moscow have collapsed since the annexation of Crimea, will be watching nervously.

On Sunday, in a shock to the established order, Trump called the EU a “foe” for “what they do to us in trade”. Famed as a deal-maker, Trump appears keen to put economics ahead of traditional ties, describing Putin as a “competitor” rather than an enemy.

Trump has also rejected NATO and the UN in favour of carrying out diplomacy through high-profile summits with strongman leaders such as Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping.

Yesterday, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, declared that “the architecture of the world is changing” and he called on major powers to work together to “prevent conflict and chaos”.

Meanwhile, Russian politician Valentina Matvienko said the summit was of “huge significance… for global stability.”

Was the summit a good sign?

Russian roulette

Not at all, say some. Trump is doing Putin’s work for him, sowing division in the West and destabilising international structures. His habit of leaning towards strongman leaders over those elected democratically is a very bad sign. Furthermore, Trump puts more faith in Putin, an autocrat with a history of human rights abuses, than his own intelligence services.

Yes, argue others. The US and Russia hold 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, so improved relations can only be a good thing. International institutions are inefficient and the traditional diplomacy of to-ing and fro-ing doesn’t get anything done. Real change is best achieved when nations pursue their interests directly.

You Decide

  1. Is this summit good or bad for the world?
  2. Should the US honour its historical alliances?

Activities

  1. Watch a video of Trump’s press conference with Putin. Looking at their body language and listening to what they say, write a paragraph on who you think came out on top.
  2. Research Trump’s interactions with Russia, China and North Korea, and compare them with his interactions with NATO and the EU. Write an essay on the statement: “Trump’s approach to diplomacy is the way forward.”

Some People Say...

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Sun Tzu

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met at Finland’s presidential palace in Helsinki yesterday. Putin arrived almost an hour late, in what has been widely seen as a power play. During their first interaction, Trump appeared to wink at Putin. Politicians in the US have rushed to condemn Trump for siding with Russia against the FBI. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, called on the president to recognise that “Russia is not our ally.”
What do we not know?
Whether the summit will lead to any concrete outcomes. The agenda for the meeting was vague and the two sides did not make any firm agreements. While Trump and Putin may have better relations, Trump’s refusal to criticise Putin over the Russian hacking scandal has caused huge division in the US. It is unclear how this will play out.

Word Watch

Cold War
A time of political hostility between Western powers and the Soviet Union. It started in 1947 and lasted until the latter’s collapse in 1991. The term “cold” is used because there was no large-scale fighting between the two sides, but tensions led many to fear the outbreak of nuclear war.
Indicted
To formally accuse or charge with a crime. The Russians are accused of hacking into the emails of the Democratic Party — whose candidate was Hillary Clinton — in order to spread damaging information and boost the Trump campaign.
Annexation of Crimea
In 2014, pro-Russian activists and disguised troops took control of Crimea, a self-governing republic that had been part of Ukraine since 1954.
In trade
The EU has imposed trade tariffs on some imports from the US in response to the Trump administration’s decision to introduce heavy taxes on aluminium and steel from the EU.
NATO and the UN
Trump has pulled the US out of the United National Human Rights Council. He also called NATO, a military alliance of western nations, “obsolete”.
Autocrat
A ruler who has absolute power.

Subjects