09212019What's Hot:

Russia Crows Over Putin’s Meeting With Trump

One Russian tabloid called the meeting “historic,” and over all there was a sense of relief that if short on concrete agreements, the talks seemed to halt the downward spiral in relations and lack of contact between the two countries.

This meeting “opened the way to a second, a third, a fourth meeting, where meaningful decisions will be made,” Sergei Markov, a political commentator close to the Kremlin, wrote on Facebook. He hailed the return to “normal contacts,” which he said had been destroyed by Mr. Obama, who sought to isolate Russia after it seized Crimea in March 2014.

Amid the cheering in Moscow, however, there were notes of caution about the frequent gaps between what Mr. Trump says and what he does and can deliver. And more important, there was a recognition that the domestic mood toward Russia in the United States remained sour.

The main message that emerged after more than two hours of talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg on Friday was that deals were possible, analysts said, and the mere fact that the two presidents had met in person for the first time since Mr. Trump was elected mattered more than the lack of a breakthrough.

“It is important that they finally met because if you look at the history of the relations between Washington and Moscow, these relations always depended to a large extent on the personal contact between the two leaders,” said Andrei V. Kortunov, the director of the Russian International Affairs Council, a foreign policy research group, in an interview. “They defended their trenches, but tried to keep options for future compromises open.”

The two accounts of the meeting — one from Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and the other by the American secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, the only two officials in the room besides the two presidents — differed in some important details.

Notably, Mr. Tillerson said that Mr. Trump had confronted the Mr. Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 election during a “robust and lengthy” discussion. In Mr. Lavrov’s account, Mr. Trump accepted Mr. Putin’s denial.

“Believe Lavrov,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters on Saturday when asked about the divergent accounts. Some Russian officials expressed particular delight at that version.

“The neocons are furious,” Alexei K. Pushkov, a former chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, wrote on Twitter, referring to neoconservatives in the United States. “Trump accepted Putin’s words about Russia’s noninterference in the American election. He does not want to stand at the ‘anti-Russian hysteria’ bus stop.” He added: “It was important for Trump to hear Putin: After all, back in Washington, he is fed informational gruel that is mixed up in the fake.”

Mr. Putin seemed to try to break the ice with Mr. Trump by referring to his travails with the news media back home. Mr. Putin gestured toward members of the press who had been allowed to photograph them before the meeting started and said, “These are the ones that insulted you?” according to a Twitter message from a member of the Kremlin press pool. Mr. Trump could be heard agreeing, saying, “You are right about that.”

During his news conference, Mr. Putin called the fact that the two sides were working together on the de-escalation zones in Syria “a massive step forward.” He noted that work on delineating the zones and providing security had to be hammered out. “This is painstaking, even tedious work, but it is extremely important,” he said.

Video

Is a United Europe Important? 13 U.S. Presidents Think So.

For more than 70 years, U.S. presidents have spoken as one voice on how a free and united Europe is in America’s national security interests.

. Watch in Times Video »

The Russian president also said he thought that the American position on Syria was becoming more “pragmatic” with the realization that combined efforts might be better.

That sentiment provoked some gloating in Moscow. “It has become clear that Trump recognizes Russia’s serious intentions in Syria and wishes to join the settlement process and to be a party to the resolution of problems in Syria alongside Russia,” Adalbi Shkhagoshev, a member of the foreign affairs committee in the Duma, the lower house of Parliament, was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Tass.

Yet several Russian analysts also noted that the Trump administration had yet to settle on a Syria policy and that previous cease-fire agreements had not stuck. While there are points of agreement, the two countries also have significant differences, particularly America’s opposition to Iranian efforts to leverage the Syria conflict to gain broader influence in the Middle East.

As long as the countries are talking, however, there is a sense that American and Russian military forces fighting with different forces on the ground there will not come to blows. “The overall public reaction here is positive because people were concerned how this confrontation might end,” Mr. Kortunov said.

Broadly, Russians recognized that this was just a first step, and that senior Trump administration officials like the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, often take a harder line on Syria or Ukraine.

Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader and no stranger to difficult summit meetings, hailed the two presidents’ meeting while noting that Mr. Trump was “unpredictable.”

“That the president of the United States, for his part, spoke positively of the results of the meeting is very good,” Mr. Gorbachev was quoted as saying by Interfax, an independent news agency. “Now, the most important thing is for concrete steps realizing these agreements to follow.”

Given the level of rancor in the United States toward Russia at the moment, there was some recognition that would be difficult.

“We still don’t know how able President Trump is in terms of delivering on anything specific in these agreements because Russia is still toxic in Washington,” Mr. Kortunov said. “Anything he agrees will be looked at with suspicion in Washington.”

He and others noted that the open hostility toward the United States, particularly on Russian state television and in the government bureaucracy, might diminish now that Mr. Putin seemed to regard relations as moving in a better direction. There was no immediate report on some issues stressed by Moscow before the meeting, including the return of two Russian diplomatic compounds that the United States seized in December.

Mr. Putin also wanted to use the meeting to further his goal of restoring Russia to its position of global influence and to project his own power, particularly important for a home audience that will vote in a presidential election in 2018.

“I really hope so,” he said when asked whether his meeting with Mr. Trump would lead to improved ties between Moscow and Washington, adding “it seems to me that the special preconditions for this have been created.”

“As for relations on a personal level, I believe we have established them,” Mr. Putin said. “Trump’s TV persona differs sharply from the real man. He is a very straightforward person, grasps precisely what his interlocutor says, quickly analyzes and responds to questions or new elements of the discussion.”

Mr. Putin twice ignored questions about Mr. Trump’s speech in Warsaw in which he urged Russia to cease “its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere.” Mr. Putin also said that he was not worried about competition with the United States over gas sales to Poland as long as they were not politicized.

Audiences in both countries were also closely watching the power dynamics between the two men. While a body language specialist employed by the BBC suggested that Mr. Trump won the day, a Russian expert consulted by the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid was having none of it.

Mr. Putin exuded confidence, the Russian expert said, while Mr. Trump seemed to show a lack of it by sitting on the edge of his chair. Mr. Putin “controlled the situation and decided its tone,” the expert said, concluding that over all the meeting was “a psychological victory for the Russian president.”

Source: NYT > World

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic