ISSUE 2-2017
Роман Темников
Denys Reva Roman Temnikov Aндрей Костырев Vyacheslav Rodionov
Ahmad Alili  & Victoria Bittner
Дмитрий Дубов
Alžběta Chmelařová

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Alžběta Chmelařová | Researcher in politics, the Czech Republic | Issue 2, 2017

The first face-to-face meeting between president Trump and president Putin on the margins of the G20 summit in Hamburg (July 7-8, 2017) was one of the most eagerly awaited diplomatic showdowns in years. But it did not bring anything new.

A sculpture of former US President Ronald Reagan and USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev shaking hands was unveiled ahead of Trump – Putin meeting which was by many regarded as symbolic as the  Russia-U.S. ties, which have plummeted to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and other disputes. The meeting betweeen Putin and Trump had nothing to do with the symbolicism.  

The relationship between the two alpha males is not and will not be an easy one and many tried to find the most suitable allegory to capture the nature of this bromance. Both presidents indicated they want to work on the future of their relationship. At the same time both of them are commiting the typical relationship mistakes, complicated by the fact that this is a long-distance one.

The first date was seen as a success first or at least both parties wanted to hail it a success and be able to present the encounter as friendly. Rex Tillerson, a sidekick of president Trump, added that the over two-hour conversation had revealed “very clear positive chemistry” between the presidents and that “neither one of them wanted to stop.” But even if the managed to find „love“ this would not help them deal with any issue that comes up. And the challenge was right there. Later that evening old wounds, misunderstandings and misinterpretations crawled in. They both are giving too much too soon. They jumped into the relationship and hit it hard. Russian medling into he US elections made everyone feel uneasy, especially when more and more of the secret dating is being exposed. Many Americans feel cheated on and the main question, whether it was worth it, is valid for both sides.

Rules of healthy communication have been broken way too many times. Relationships live and die not by the sword, but by the amount of discussion. You don´t wait to tell your significant other how much he bothers you with throwing bombs on positions held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Arab Coalition. At the same time you should not overshare on social media, moreover when sending inconsistent messages is something the other party is not used to. Both sides overanalyze every move and word and call on body language experts. Both sides are emotionally overloaded. All of this baggage acts like a fire hose which will extinguish the „fire of love“ and therefore there is no moving forward. Unless you can both show up in the relationship as mature, happy adults you can’t have a mature, happy relationship. And the „mature“ and „happy“ clearly does not apply to neither of those involved.

Despite everything that has been said, Trump and Putin seem to have a strange attraction for one another. Before Trump became president he said how much he admired Putin and he still downplays his friend’s role in his own election last year – for whatever reason. Trump greeted Putin with a pat on the back, not really a very fitting greeting for someone who has attacked the integrity of your elections. Putin also praised Trump and suggested that Russian hackers might just have felt a patriotic duty to help Trump become president.

But Trump´s and Putin´s end game differs greatly. Putin has a strategic interest in reshaping the world according to his needs. Trump needs global headlines. So far it was Putin who was seen as Mr. Unpredictable and would do the unthinkable. It would be normally him who would play the others. The dizzying flip-flops of the American president should have warned him though. Trump keeps changing his mind, on NATO (obsolete, not obsolete), on China (currency manipulator, not a currency manipulator), on Brexit and most recently on Russia (cyber security unit can be created, cyber security unit cannot be created).

Relations with Russia are just part of this long running saga. Putin is a master of playing in the adults world but dealing with Trump brought the game to a different level. Trump´s doctrine of unpredictability is really sure to do harm to national security and destabilize relationships with allies. But it also surely drives Putin mad. He has not experienced such a freestyle ride yet. And even though I like the idea of Russian presidential administration being busy trying to figure out what is going on it would be wrong to be happy about the current situation.

Pundits have been trying to answer the magic question „What does Putin want (think,…)“ for ages. Now they are busy with another enigma - trying to understand Donald Trump. What he means, what he intends. Maybe we just need to accept that he has no plan, no vision, no understanding and no desire to understand. And therefore no ability to lead. But what do we know? There is no proof and it might all just be fake news. The truth, even in the so called post-truth world, is that the U.S. is isolated and in decline. The EU will have to step in and the United States will be truly missed. 

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