The House Intelligence Committee has ended its year-long investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. The report states that no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia has been found. The interviews with 73 witnesses, nine hearings, and a review of more than 300,000 documents have proven that there was no connection between the presidential candidate and Russia. All those efforts have been in vain. And this changes a lot.
Until now Donald Trump has had his hands tied on Russia. The media have been spreading stories about the president’s “Russia connection” and his political opponents have been exploiting that for their own political goals. The environment of anti-Moscow hysteria that has been created in the country has prevented the chief executive from protecting America’s national interests by reviving a dialog with Moscow on a whole host of problems that urgently need to be addressed.
It looks like the Senate probes conducted by the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees will also lead nowhere. If there were anything serious to talk about, it would have been out in the public square a long time ago. The president’s numerous ill-wishers would have seen to that.
When the dust settles, Americans will see that they have been deliberately misled. Someone will have to be held responsible. The ones who raised such a hue and cry over the “Russia connection” will do their best to make sure that all the probes, especially the one led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, drag on for as long as possible. They’ll be happy if the investigations don’t end before the 2018 midterms but the question will be asked: why is it taking it so long?
For the American president, the artificially created scandals related to Russia are a distraction that prevents him from focusing on either his foreign or his domestic agenda. It has the potential to derail his presidency. The completion of the House probe offers a chance to switch from a defensive to an offensive policy. With the investigations going nowhere, the president may have many more supporters in Congress after the 2018 midterm elections to help him advance his Russia policy.
This is a matter of great importance for Donald Trump. If Russiagate continues, he won’t have the full freedom to implement his foreign policy. But if he is proven innocent and cleared of all charges, he may go down in history as a very strong leader. The economy is whizzing along: the markets are up and unemployment is down.
He might not even hit it off with the Russian president, you never know. It’s possible that the personal chemistry he shares with the French president might be absent, but he can still defend his country’s interests by maintaining a businesslike dialog. According to Donald Trump, “Putin is very important.”
The US may need talks on arms control and nonproliferation even more than Russia does. The future of the New START Treaty, the validity of the INF Treaty, the obstacles to maintaining the Open Sky Treaty, and the controversy over the BMD, as well as the lack of progress on Syria and Ukraine, are all issues of concern to both parties, not just to Russia. New challenges keep cropping up that should be incorporated into the bilateral security agenda. They should be addressed at a full-fledged bilateral summit, not at meetings on the sidelines of various world events.
The US need for a dialog has been confirmed by the contacts with Russian officials that have taken place despite all the tensions that cloud that bilateral relationship. One example was the visit by three Russian intelligence chiefs to Washington in February. The top military leaders hold regular meetings as well.
Not only will the US midterm elections take place in November, that is also when Donald Trump will meet Vladimir Putin during at least three multilateral summits: the APEC Papua New Guinea 2018, the 13th East Asia summit in Singapore, and the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires summit (Nov. 30-Dec. 1).
Russia and the United States may not become close partners, but engagement, “deconfliction,” and interaction in some areas are very important. A full-fledged summit could change a lot of things, especially if it is held amidst the “Russiagate” probes that are starting to look like much ado about zilch. And if it turns out that they are, the American people will have every reason to ask who exactly invented these fake stories and made them go viral, spoiling relations with a country whose input is essential for resolving all urgent security issues.