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Trump-Putin meeting arrives at the low point for US-Russian relations



President Trump will finally have his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, one by one that the president has been calling for since his campaign, but which many analysts fear could lead to US bargaining. with a bad actor.

The White House says that the two leaders will discuss important issues in Russian-American relations, and Trump will try to improve the relationship that is currently at its lowest point since the Cold War.

Accusations of Russian agents for alleged piracy and electoral interference. Sanctions Diplomatic expulsions. The last years, which date back to the annexation of Crimea in Russia in 2014, have generated great tension between the United States and Russia.

  PHOTOGRAPHY: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces accusations before a grand jury of 12 Russian intelligence officers in the Robert Muellers Russia investigation, during a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on July 13. 2018. Leah Millis / Reuters
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces accusations before a grand jury of 12 Russian intelligence officers in the investigation of Robert Mueller in Russia, during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC on July 13, 2018.

Putin and Trump are also expected to also address global issues that have put the two countries in conflict, including Ukraine, Syria, arms control and North Korea.

"I'm not going to go in with great expectations, but we can get some amazing things," Trump said at a news conference on Friday with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in England.

Here is a look at the main problems.

Bilateral relations

"Fortunately, we will have a very good relationship with Russia," Trump said at Friday's press conference as he stood by May, whose country is still reeling from an attack with chemical weapons by Russian agents. in March and a possible second this month.

This is a common chorus of Trump, who has called for better relations with Russia since he was a candidate. "We are competitors, not a question of friend or enemy, he is not my enemy, and with luck, one day, maybe he is a friend," he said about Putin at NATO headquarters a week ago.

Despite their attempts to forge that friendship, Russian-American relations are harsh. Russia forced the United States to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country last summer, a belated response to the expulsions ordered by President Obama from Russian diplomats in retaliation for Moscow's interference in the 2016 elections. UU They responded by closing the Russian consulate in San Francisco and expelling more Russians.

Congress also approved broad new sanctions on Russia last summer that Trump reluctantly signed because Republicans and Democrats say the administration has not done enough to punish Russia for its electoral interference and dissuade them from acting again on the partial exams of 2018.

Trump has said he will raise the issue of electoral interference: "I will bring absolutely 'meddling'," he said on Friday. But in the past, he has questioned whether Russia, in fact, interfered in the US elections, which seems to give credence to Putin's denials. Trump told reporters last November that he believed in Putin, only for the White House to make that return statement later.

As Trump's own national intelligence director, Dan Coats, told Congress in February, Russia has not been deterred: "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and sees the elections of mid-term of 2018 as a potential target for Russian-influenced operations. "

After the chemical attack in the United Kingdom, EE. UU He expelled more Russian diplomats and closed the Seattle consulate, with the Russians responding in kind.

While there was a working level group between Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to address these issues, he has not met in months; Shannon has left the State Department, with no plans for another person to assume this role.

At least Trump can get out of this summit by waving a flag of truce, trying to stop the downward spiral of relations and possibly improve them. But the actions of EE. UU They have overcome specific violations of international standards, including US ones, so any sanction or restoration of diplomatic relations would be considered a concession to Russia and a tacit green light for their aggression.

Ukraine

  PHOTO: Pro-Russian soldiers protect the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, March 4, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect the Russians in Ukraine as the USA UU March 4, 2014. Sergei Grits / AP
Russian pro-Russian soldiers protect the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, on March 4, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect the Russians in Ukraine as USPerevalne, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.

Nowhere is Russia's aggression more evident than in Ukraine. The Trump State Department has spent months criticizing Russia for backing, arming and leading the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, and the administration maintains that it will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia invaded in 2014, what leads to the United States and Europe sanctions The fighting in eastern Ukraine continues after more than four years, with more than 10,000 people dead.

While the Trump administration has been hard on Russia over Ukraine, sending lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government, extending sanctions to the Russians for their participation and supporting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the war, Trump doubts expressed

He reportedly told European leaders that Crimea should be Russian because many of its inhabitants speak Russian, and when asked if he would recognize the annexation of Russia last Thursday, he pointed out that Russia would open a bridge to the Crimea, an underwater port, "substantially added billions of dollars … What will happen to Crimea from now on? I can not tell you."

Even leaving the door open to Russia's land grabs has made Europe's allies nervous, especially Eastern Europeans who might face the same threat from Russia, as it has also invaded Georgia and Moldova.

Syria

The possible recognition of Trump to Crimea could be part of a larger agreement that relates to Syria. After more than seven years of a horrific civil war, large swathes of Syria begin to appear more firmly under the command of President Bashar al-Assad, which has the support of Russian air power and the Iranian and Iranian militias, although groups supported by the United States, including the Kurds, maintain control in some parts of the country.

  PHOTOGRAPHY: Smoke rises from the buildings after a surface-to-surface missile attack in an area controlled by the rebels in the southern Syrian city of Daraa on March 23, 2018. Mohamad Abazeed / AFP / Getty Images [19659006] Smoke rises from buildings after a surface-to-surface missile attack in a rebel-controlled area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa on March 23, 2018.

Assad's brutal tactics, including the use of chemical weapons, barrel bombs and torture, and repeated appeals by the United States and others to resign, the Trump administration, influenced by allies such as Israel and the Arab states, now sees Iran as the biggest threat in Syria. By seeking an end to Iran's military presence there, which threatens those allies and regional stability, the United States can seek an agreement with Russia, analysts say. In exchange for Russia expelling Iran from Syria, Trump could recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia or withdraw the sanctions of the United States.

But it is not clear whether Russia has the capacity or interest to get Iran out, and because of the sanctions imposed by Congress, Trump can no longer unilaterally end sanctions against Russia.

Either way, the two leaders are also likely to discuss the ceasefire zone that both sides agreed to in southwestern Syria last year. Negotiated with Jordan, it was announced by the USA. UU As a way to quell the violence in Syria and move towards peace. But in recent weeks, the Assad regime, backed by Russian air power, has entered the area in open violation of the agreement. Although the Trump administration has expressed its concern, it has done nothing to stop the advance, breaking the agreement that it held as a success.

Arms control

Gun control may be the lowest fruit in which the two leaders can reach some kind of agreement. But even that will not be easy. Trump told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that he will bring up Russia's breach of the Interim Scope Treaty (INF) and said he would like to extend the New START, an agreement that limits the number of nuclear weapons deployed and creates new inspections scheme but that expires in 2021.

  PHOTO: A photo capture taken of footage provided by the official website of Russian President Kremlin.ru shows a test launch of a nuclear-powered cruise missile during the speech by Russian President Vladimir Putins to the Federal Assembly in Moscow on March 1, 2018. Kremlin brochure / EPA / REX / Shutterstock
A photo taken from the images provided by the official website of the Russian president kremlin.ru shows a test launch of a missile from Nuclear propulsion cruise during the address of Russian President Vladimir Putin Assembly in Moscow, March 1, 2018.

Trump previously criticized that agreement as a bad deal negotiated by his predecessor. It is not clear what changed and now he wants to extend it.

The best that can be expected here is that, outside of its summit, Putin and Trump announce new talks to negotiate a follow-up agreement. The two parties sat for the last time in September, but a second meeting was canceled in March.

Still, the idea of ​​nuclear talks seems to attract both Trump, who is seeking a summit victory, and Putin, who wants Russia to appear as an equal to the US. UU And a nuclear superpower on the world stage.

However, there is no shortage of irony when making an arms control agreement with Russia after it has deployed chemical weapons in the United Kingdom and has blessed its use in Syria.

North Korea

While China is North Korea's most important trading partner, Russia also has strong historical and economic ties with Pyongyang, something that the United States has asked for in recent years, as it has sought to tighten the rope in North Korea and demands that it dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

  PHOTOGRAPHY: North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, accompanies President Donald Trump, on the left, during a break at his historic US summit. UU And North Korea at the Hotel Capella on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, accompanies President Donald Trump, to the left, during a break at its historic summit between EE. UU And North Korea at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12. 2018.

But with the Trump administration now pushing for a diplomatic solution to North Korea's nuclear program, Russia has found itself looking inward, and wants nothing more than to be in the game and be considered a player important. That is why Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid a visit to Kim Jong A few days before the Trump summit in Singapore.

Putin can offer to help the US UU To negotiate with North Korea, as Russia did during the six-party talks under the George W. Bush administration. It is unclear how much influence Russia has with Kim, but the support of another regional power could help propel North Korea on the path to denuclearization.

Still, what the United States should be vigilant about is a Russian impulse to ease the sanctions on North Korea so that it can reactivate economic activity. Last week, the main North Korean diplomat in the Russian province of Primorsky met with the governor of the region and advocated building a bridge across the border, expanding trade and increasing the number of North Korean guest workers in Russia, which would violate the sanctions of the United Nations Security Council.

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