In Finland, a meeting of Sergey Lavrov and Michael Pompeo – three days after the unexpected call of Donald trump Vladimir Putin. In the coming months, a new phase in Russian-American relations may begin – us President is clearly trying to play the Russian card in his global game. How will Vladimir Putin behave?
Although Mike Pompeo has been Secretary of state for more than a year, the meeting with Sergey Lavrov in the Finnish city of Rovaniemi on the sidelines of the Arctic summit was only the second communication between the two Ministers. And their first meeting, aka acquaintance, was also held in Finland – last July during the summit of Putin and trump, held in the Finnish capital. And although the current negotiations were planned for a long time, attention to them has increased significantly after the Friday call of Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin.
The two leaders have not spoken on the phone since March last year, and in General, have not spoken since November 2018 – when they “on their feet” talked first during international events in Paris, and then during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. Both November conversations cannot be called normal – on the move, in secret from the press (Trump was even forced to cancel the planned separate meeting in Argentina with Putin).
That is, the last normal detailed conversation between the two presidents was in July 2018 during their first and only summit in Helsinki. And now the phone call trump – after which in America, of course, again began a tantrum about betrayal. Why did trump call right now and what will happen next?
The answer to the first question is simple only at first glance – in April, the investigation ended Prosecutor Muller and did not find “Russian connections” trump. For more than two years, the accusation of ties with Russia hung on trump as a heavy burden, preventing him not only from talking to Putin but also from fulfilling his presidential duties in General. Now trump feels much freer – and although the Democrats will continue to accuse him of “working for Putin”, it makes no sense for him to fear that his policy in the Russian direction will affect the report of the Prosecutor General. However, the current call to Putin is still not explained only by this.
The two presidents discussed many issues – from North Korea and Ukraine to Venezuela and bilateral trade. Of course, for Trump, the North Korean theme is also important, around which he has wound so much that now he can not just forget about it (although this would be the most reasonable from the point of view of real policy – PR-victories on this front will not be achieved). The same applies to Venezuela, which Washington has chosen as an excuse to return to the Monroe doctrine, demanding that Russia and China get out of Latin America. And it is no accident that the removal of Russian-American relations from the pause (and this is how trump’s call to Putin should be regarded) is directly connected not only with the publication of the Muller report and the end of the investigation of the “Russian trace”, but also with us-Chinese relations.
On Friday, Trump called Putin, and on Sunday he wrote on his Twitter that on may 10 he would raise duties on Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent. That is, Beijing declared a trade war – or rather, resumed it just at the moment when the States and China had to come to an agreement on new terms of trade:
“On Friday, 10 percent will increase to 25 percent. $ 325 billion in other goods that China sends to us is not yet subject to duties, but will soon be at a rate of 25 percent. The duties that the US receives have almost no impact on the cost of production, and its burden is mainly borne by China. Negotiations on a trade agreement with China continue, but too slowly as they try to renegotiate the terms. No!»
On Wednesday, Washington will host another round of us-Chinese trade negotiations – and it turns out that three days before Trump threatens to raise duties. The meaning of the threat is clear – the Chinese have until Friday to agree with the Americans on a new agreement, otherwise, the war, albeit trade, will resume.
Will Trump be able to bend Beijing? No – the Chinese did not take so long to negotiate to save themselves from an open threat. But does this mean that Trump will fulfill his promise, and on Friday the us-China trade war will begin? No – because neither China nor the United States is not interested in it, and, most likely, following the results of trade negotiations in Washington, it will be announced that the parties are closer than ever to the agreement and even the term of its signing is called. Trump will withdraw his threat and declare himself the winner. In reality, the trade agreement will be a compromise – and both sides will have a reason to talk about their successes.
And Putin was needed now Trump just for pressure on the Chinese because all are closely watching the balance of power in the triangle “Russia – US-China”. Beijing was very wary of trump’s initial statements about his intention to “get along with Putin” and in 2017 paid great attention to carefully monitoring the very possibility of Russian-American rapprochement. Not because they did not trust Putin (his commitment to the strategic nature of relations between Moscow and Beijing is beyond doubt in XI Jinping), but because they used to calculate all the options and still remember the 90s when the Russian leadership almost turned into a puppet of the West. It is clear that Putin will not give up rapprochement with China and the joint course of building a post-American world order – but even the tactical games of Moscow with Washington should not be a surprise for Beijing.
Does trump hope to weaken the Alliance between Putin and XI? Hardly. First, it is based on the coincidence of long-term geopolitical interests, and, secondly, the United States before trump did everything possible and impossible to confirm the belief of the Russian and Chinese that the Americans are the main enemy of Moscow and Beijing. The fact that it was under trump that the Washington administration openly called Russia and China a threat to the States does not change anything fundamentally – the States lost the opportunity to influence the Russian-Chinese rapprochement long before Trump.
However, Trump plays by his own rules and it seems to him that a conversation with Putin will become an important element of his game with Xi Jinping. Of course, relations with Russia have an independent meaning for trump – but at this particular moment, their “Chinese component” is most important for him. Trump Needs an agreement with China as soon as possible – before the June G20 summit, which will be held in Osaka, Japan. Si does not need to hurry – he can both go now to conclude the transaction (realizing that she can not live a year), and to pull the time. Putin, of course, will not allow Trump to play with him in the “Chinese party” – however, he can not prevent Trump to use the theme of Russia and China in their own PR. As it is happening now – including, for example, on the topic of nuclear disarmament and arms control, when Trump says that the Chinese allegedly want to participate in the discussion of a new trilateral Treaty designed to replace the Russian-American start-3, and in Beijing they say that they are not going to do anything like that.
So not only the end of Muller’s investigation and the global agenda but also the us-China game make the probability of a new summit of Putin and trump more than high. And it can take place at the end of June – in Japan on the sidelines of the G20 summit or in one of the countries of the Pacific region.