US President Trump has belatedly announced that he won’t meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit this weekend. The abrupt cancellation is said to be due to the naval incident between Ukraine and Russia last week.
It is reprehensible that the urgent need for diplomacy between Washington and Moscow is being relegated – yet again – this time by an incident which bears the hallmarks of a deliberate provocation stunt orchestrated by the Kiev regime.
The cancelled meeting between Trump and Putin follows a pattern of on-off hesitancy between the two leaders, primarily from the American side.
This zigzagging in even limited diplomacy between the two biggest nuclear powers is lamentable, especially given the mounting tensions in their bilateral relations, which have appalling implications for world peace.
Nearly two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the American leader has only met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in one full meeting. That was in Helsinki in July earlier this year, when the two men appeared to form a cordial rapport and agreed to work together on several global issues, including arms control.
Notably, following the Helsinki meeting, Trump was assailed by American politicians and media for being a “traitor” for daring to extend the basic courtesy of talking with Putin. The Soviet Union may have disappeared nearly three decades ago, but red-baiting in American politics is an enduring ideology.
Three other brief meetings have previously been held on the sidelines of multilateral gatherings. Those occasions were at the last G20 summit held in Hamburg in July 2017, then at the APEC conference in Vietnam later the same year, and also during the recent World War One commemoration in Paris earlier this month. Such glancing encounters are astoundingly inappropriate given the imperative need for earnest dialogue. Meanwhile Trump has received several other world leaders at the White House over the past two years.
The pair were to hold a bilateral meeting this weekend during the G20 summit in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires. Only this week, Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton was telling media that the two leaders were due to discuss a range of issues, including arms controls.
On the eve of the G20 conference, Trump reneged. He said his decision was based on a briefing by his intelligence agencies on the Kerch incident last weekend, when three Ukrainian naval vessels were detained by Russian security forces. Russia claims that it interdicted the Ukrainian warships because they violated its maritime territory with menacing intent.
Trump has however backed the dubious Ukrainian version of events, claiming that Russian forces acted aggressively.
There is reliable evidence that the Kiev regime orchestrated the incident by dispatching its armed vessels to the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia’s mainland in order to provoke a Russian security response.
It is unseemly that Washington has rushed to back the Ukrainian narrative. President Putin has dismissed the incident as an electoral ploy ordered by the Kiev regime aimed at boosting President Poroshenko flagging support among Ukrainian voters. Poroshenko’s rapid imposition of martial law in Ukraine suggests a scripted attempt to escalate tensions. So too were his dramatic calls to sundry Western media outlets for NATO intervention to “defend Ukraine”.
European leaders and NATO have also sided with the Ukrainian claims accusing Russia of aggression.
The Western response is a typical knee-jerk reaction to blame Russia instead of assessing the facts.
Immediately following the naval clash in the Kerch Strait, US politicians and media have been pressuring Trump to “stand up to Putin” over alleged “Russian aggression”. Republican and Democrat lawmakers urged the president to call off his meeting with Putin in Buenos Aires. Now, it seems, Trump has caved in under the pressure.
This is deplorable. US-Russian relations are being held hostage by an anti-Russia agenda that has been virulent ever since Trump’s election in 2016 and in spite of his vows to normalize bilateral relations.
The Kerch incident falls into a long-running litany of provocative claims made against Moscow, from allegations of meddling in US elections, to alleged violations by Russian military in Syria, to allegations of a poison assassination plot in England, to alleged breaches of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty. It is evident that Russia is being abused by Trump’s domestic political opponents to undermine his presidency and thwart any normalization of bilateral relations.
This is all the more deplorable because there is a paramount need for comprehensive dialogue between Washington and Moscow on a host of vitally important issues, from arms control to establishing an understanding on preventing security conflicts.
The obligation for diplomacy between the US and Russia is more urgent than at any time since the Cold War. Moscow has repeatedly signaled that it wants to rectify misunderstandings and pursue open negotiations for the sake of international security. There is an acknowledgement from the Trump White House that it also realizes the urgency of such dialogue. Yet continually, the chance for dialogue is being scuppered by an anti-Russia political agenda.
By not meeting Putin in Buenos Aires, another essential opportunity to restore bilateral US-Russia relations is being scotched. The diversion from diplomacy is dangerously fueling tensions.
But what is all the more reprehensible is that Trump is in effect giving a green light to the Kiev regime to pursue its reckless efforts to provoke more conflict with Russia.
President Trump is evidently not in control of his own ship of state. He is being buffeted off course by Russophobia among his political opponents at home and is being towed along by a rogue regime in Kiev. The implications for world peace could not be more perilous.