Opinion: Putin comes up Trumps | Opinion | DW | 30.06.2018
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Opinion

Opinion: Putin comes up Trumps

It's official: On July 16, US President Donald Trump and Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin will meet in Helsinki. DW's Miodrag Soric already knows who will come out on top.

What will Donald Trump be able to achieve at a summit with Vladimir Putin? Very little. Russia will by no means withdraw from Crimea. It will continue to support rebels in eastern Ukraine, as well as President Bashar Assad and Iranian troops in Syria. And Trump will not be able to change much, if anything, when it comes to Putin's "Russia first" policy.

The Kremlin leader, on the other hand, can expect to gain a great deal from a Russia-US summit. When he and Trump meet to talk about international issues, TV images the world over will covey the same message: two politicians negotiating on an equal footing. Putin will score points with this summit, with or without results.

Read more: India, Russia strive for 'multipolar' world in Trump's 'America first' era 

American-Russian compromises?

At the same time, with such a summit Putin is dividing the Western camp even further. Britain's goal of isolating Russia after the Skripal affair has been frustrated by its "big brother" on the other side of the Atlantic.

Ukrainians will also be left feeling duped, if not betrayed, by the US. Although, Kyiv should acknowledge that Washington has only ever supported Ukraine with strong words — rarely with new funds. Putin could be prepared to make concessions in the Ukraine conflict, but only if the Americans give up their opposition to the Russia-Germany Nordstream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea in return.

In any case, the US will continue with its sanctions on Russia after the summit. For procedural reasons, the US Congress isn't able to retract the sanctions from one day to the next. And at the moment, there is no political will in Washington to do so, either.

Ego boost

So why does Trump want this summit? On the one hand, he wants to keep his campaign promises. And that includes improving relations with Russia. On the other hand, Trump seems to need spectacular political productions to satisfy his own ego. Autocrats use such narcissism for their own purposes.

North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un has hardly moved on the issues that were recently discussed in Singapore. Trump has nevertheless sold that meeting as a historic success. Putin has taken note, and will no doubt follow suit.

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