The mere fact that U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were able to meet and hold a substantive discussion on July 7 is itself remarkable given the insane atmosphere of paranoia in the U.S. with respect to anything Russian. But the meeting did take place. As some have correctly observed, in terms of importance the G20 occurred on the margins of what amounted to a Trump-Putin summit, not the other way around.
It is clear that President Trump is very sincere in trying to work out some kind of a broader arrangement with Moscow, but he faces tremendous opposition here in Washington from people who didn’t want this meeting to take place, or wanted it to be pro forma handshake and exchange of pleasantries devoid of substance. But substance there was, particularly on the critical area of Syria, the most dangerous flashpoint for a possible outbreak of direct U.S.-Russia military confrontation.
The deal for a ceasefire in southwest Syria could be of critical importance in finally bringing the war in that county to an end. The choice of the ceasefire location bordering on the Golan Heights indicates that the U.S. must have cleared the arrangement with the Israelis. Conversely, Moscow would hardly have moved without securing a no-objection from Damascus and Tehran. (Regarding the latter, one generally well-informed Israeli analytical site laments that the ceasefire frees up Iranian resources for deployment elsewhere in Syria. That said, it also means withdrawal of Hezbollah forces from the area, a key Israeli concern, while replacing them with a Russian military police force spearheaded by Sunni Chechens.) By thus bringing along on the arrangement their most fractious and bitterly hostile allies, Washington and Moscow may have the best chance of edging toward an end of hostilities.
But there is still a long way to go. The U.S. has not specified what its role in the area will be. That may be a good thing. Realistically, the smaller the American presence in Syria is, and the more the Russians and the Jordanians take the lead, the better. Keep in mind that there are a lot of people in the U.S. Deep State who don’t want any cooperation with Russia at all on anything, particularly on Syria. There is a huge potential that somebody may try to sabotage the Trump-Putin agreement. (There’s a reason there were no other officials in the room except the two presidents and respective foreign ministers, plus translators. The problem isn’t on the Russian side. Rather, even in his own administration, Trump has few others he can trust.) In particular, there exists an ever-present danger of another false flag chemical attack as we saw in Ghouta in 2013 and in Idlib in April of this year. The last thing anyone needs is a lot of Americans on the ground as attractive targets for a provocation.
The Syria ceasefire agreement is a small first step and fraught with difficulties. Yet as a potential for defusing the most dangerous conflict with potential for a wider war, it should have been banner-headline, positive news in every American publication.
But it wasn’t. Effectively burying the progress made by the two presidents the U.S. media has been totally fixated on a meeting last year between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer supposedly connected in some way with the Russian government. It is hard to believe the timing was coincidental. (If you can believe it, the only other «news» story competing with Donald Jr. for attention at the top of every broadcast was the allegation of a semi-literate tart and former stripper that her erstwhile boyfriend from an appalling family had posted racy pictures of her without authorization. This, my friends, is how low we’ve sunk.)
From July 7 until this writing the Donald Jr. story has been the obsessive point of media attention. Why? Because when approached by a British publicist claiming to have Russian government information that would damage Hillary Clinton, Donald Jr. rushed to welcome receipt of any such information – which was not forthcoming. «Collusion!» – the media and Democrats shrieked. Even worse, according to the former Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, possiblytreason! (This is despite the fact that in the United States treason is defined in the Constitution itself very narrowly, consisting essentially of bear arms against the U.S. in time of war.)
The President’s defenders have pointed out, accurately, that the Clinton campaign didn’t just indicate a willingness to receive information that would hurt they Trump campaign, they actively – here’s the key word – colluded in the very manner the Trump people are falsely accused of. Specifically, Democratic party personnel met with Ukrainian officials providing damaging material, some of it of doubtful veracity, about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
But it’s not the same thing, you see. Why? «Russia is an adversary, even enemy, of the United States. Ukraine isn't quite an ally, but certainly not an adversary and Ukrainian officials who worked with the Clinton campaign argue they did so to warn about Russia». Ah, that explains it!
Or put more simply, Ukraine is a friend, and working with them is patriotic. But the Russians are enemies, so anything they might provide is tainted with treasonous implications.