Letter From the Editors: July 10 - 16, 2017

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

Trump and Putin Meet in Hamburg; the Russian Opposition Sees Double; and the Kremlin Sees a New Threat

The much-anticipated meeting between the world’s two enfants terribles (as Andrei Kolesnikov put it last week) finally happened. And contrary to all the buildup in the press, the political event of the season did not deliver the nail-biting climax everyone expected. Yes, Trump and Putin went way outside their allotted one-hour time slot and actually talked for over two hours. But no major breakthroughs were reached. The presidents discussed the usual set of problems: Syria, Ukraine, cybersecurity, the economy and terrorism.

According to analyst Aleksei Khlebnikov, Syria was the one area where the two presidents managed to agree to anything of substance - creating a fourth deescalation zone in southwestern Syria with the cooperation of Jordan and Israel. Of course, the wild card in this arrangement is Iran, which could "play the role of a spoiler, deliberately provoking and exacerbating the situation in southern Syria in order to derail diplomatic efforts and emphasize use-of-force scenarios for resolving the problem."

When it came to cybersecurity, either the two presidents had a lost-in-translation moment or Trump decided to backpedal on that thorny issue, given the pressure he faces at home. In a later tweet (Trump’s favorite foreign policy tool), he denied that an agreement had been reached with Russia on creating a cybersecurity working group. This despite the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, both mentioned the existence of such an agreement. Maybe Trump didn’t get the memo?

Such a change of tone didn’t seem to spook his interlocutor. Vladimir Putin gave his meeting with Trump high marks, describing the US president as "absolutely down to earth" and adding that "if we build our relations in the vein of our meeting yesterday, there is good reason to believe that ...

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