It is reported that a Russia-US summit may take place at the end of May. According to Russia's Kommersant newspaper, citing unidentified sources on both sides, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump could meet before July's G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The information was confirmed on April 27 by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. The US president plans to be in Europe on May 25-27 to attend the NATO summit in Brussels and the G7 summit in the Italian city Taormina.
President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told ABC News on March 31 that the Russian leader hopes to meet US counterpart Donald Trump as soon as possible and expects the bilateral relationship to improve after having established personal contact. «If the two presidents meet each other, exchange views and decide that they want to reestablish a dialogue, then there will be a chance for relations to get better», he said. The two presidents spoke on the phone shortly following Trump’s inauguration in January. According to Peskov, it was a «good, constructive conversation».
President Putin made a statement at a press conference on March 30, saying that he was «ready» for a summit but that such a meeting «depends to a large extent on the American side».
There are a number of areas where Russian and US security interests coincide. Both countries have similar views on Afghanistan. There is potential for mutual efforts in addressing the Syrian crisis. There are also burning problems to be urgently addressed and untapped opportunities not to be missed.
Arms control is in dire straits. The 2010 New START will expire in 2021. The time is right to launch talks on what to do next. President Trump has made a very worrisome statement calling it «just another bad deal that the country made». Does he have something better to offer?
The fate of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is uncertain with both sides accusing each other of violating the agreement. It would by right if the presidents gave orders to launch meaningful discussions to smooth away the existing problems.
The future of arms control is the biggest challenge the countries face. Arms control agreements were in place in the heat of the Cold War. If nothing replaces the New START, and the INF Treaty becomes a victim of mutual accusations of non-compliance, there will be a new situation when an arms race will be unfettered for the first time since SALT-I was signed in 1972. And that’s the main thing the two parties have to avoid at all costs, no matter what bones of contention they might have.
It should be taken into account that arms control has not been meaningfully discussed for more than three years, much like in the period of 1983 to 1985 at the height of the Cold War. A de-confliction agreement has been reached in Syria. Now both parties need a de-confliction agreement in the field of arms control.
The weaponization of space is another burning problem that cannot be swept under the rug.
Except the Iran nuclear deal, all negotiations on nonproliferation have come to a dead end. The world is facing the most serious and comprehensive crisis in the fifty-year history of nuclear arms control with almost every channel of negotiation deadlocked and the entire system of existing arms control agreements in jeopardy. Russia and the United States still retain their leading roles in the nonproliferation regime, but they can use this advantage effectively only joining together. The history of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program provides a telling example. Despite all the differences and snags on the way, both nations continue cooperation within the framework of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) – the fact rarely mentioned in media.
The New START and INF are the only treaties able to curb the arms race that are still in place. The arms control and non-proliferation regime is eroding in front of our eyes and only two men - President Putin and President Trump - can turn the tide and keep the world away from abyss. They have a chance to do it at the meeting planned in late May.
The revival of the work of the NATO-Russia Council has great untapped potential.
The economic relationship can also be improved. Private business dialogue between the Russian government and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and the US-Russia Business Council could be encouraged. Lifting the sanctions could pave the way for forming an economic commission to address the existing opportunities.
Both countries have extensive Arctic agendas. Russia and the United States have no substantive boundary disputes in the Arctic. Recent cooperation on an international fisheries agreement, maritime safety, and the creation of an Arctic Coast Guard Forum suggest the Arctic is an area for constructive engagement. Both parties want to prevent the region’s militarization. A dialogue on the issue could lead to progress to enable Moscow and Washington to come up with joint initiatives at the September 18-20 Arctic Energy Summit to take place in Finland.
Syria should not divide Russia and the US. The time will come when reconstruction and coordinating peace management efforts will top the Syria’s agenda. Both countries need to coordinate their policies on Kurdish parties among other issues. Russia and the US could contribute significantly into preventing cycles of revenge in the post-war Syria.
Russia and the US should pursue cooperation on Libya and Afghanistan.
Donald Trump said he is ready to ally with Russia in the fight against Islamic State. This is where both countries could join together fighting the common enemy. International cooperation is crucial for success in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. The Russia-US coordination of efforts would benefit all, except terrorists.
Cybersecurity is also a potential area of cooperation.
The two nations could do much more to intensify anti-terrorism efforts, including control of foreign fighters’ movements, exchange information on illegal financial flows and sharing experience of counter terrorist activities.
Arms control and regional security will certainly dominate the bilateral agenda but strong interaction between academics, media, businesses and public diplomacy helps manage security problems and make the relationship much more fluid.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Politics is the art of the possible. It is quite possible to set the differences aside and concentrate on achieving progress in the areas where it can be done. No progress can be achieved in one fell swoop but neither Russia nor the US has an interest in further deterioration of the relationship or the collapse of the current international system. The opportunity to mark a new page in the Russia-US relationship should not be wasted, especially at a time when the overall bilateral relationship has tumbled to a nadir. Russia and the US must try, again and again, for the sake of world peace.