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Igor Ivanov

President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

The beginning of July was marked by the first personal meeting between Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Donald Trump, President of the USA, in Hamburg. The event had been awaited not only in our countries, but all around the world, drawing in a wide international response. Thus far, passions have been running high.

The first response regarding the Hamburg meeting in the USA, where the relations with Russia due to various reasons have become the most pressing of issues within the domestic policy debate, was moderately negative, as expected. It is no easy to find an American politician nowadays who would provide unequivocal support towards cooperation with our country. Unfortunately, such a situation is likely to preserve in the foreseeable future, as it reflects the persistent sentiment that the majority in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and among American political elites in general, hold.

In Russia, the mere fact of holding the meeting was perceived differently. Our commentators have long been waiting for good news from the American front, and such an enthusiastically overestimated reaction to the outcomes of the summit also has its own explanation. Despite the long-repeated bravura statements that Russia lives in an isolated fashion, not bothering with American sanctions, and life develops according to its own laws, with the state rigidly dictating its own rules. In the era of globalization, no matter how it is treated, the United States and Russia are becoming more interdependent and intertwined, and no state is able to resist this process. Moreover, such interdependence will only increase the ensuing consequences for all participants of the world politics, including our country. Therefore, ignoring the importance of restoring normal relations with the United States for our country would be, at the least, unreasonable.

Leaving aside the first and, at times, very emotional comments on the outcomes of the meeting between President Putin and President Trump, one can conclude that the meeting will undoubtedly become a political asset to both presidents. This is the case when, with good reason, it is appropriate to say that it is a win-win situation for both sides, and no one has lost.

The beginning of July was marked by the first personal meeting between Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Donald Trump, President of the USA, in Hamburg. The event had been awaited not only in our countries, but all around the world, drawing in a wide international response. Thus far, passions have been running high.

The first response regarding the Hamburg meeting in the USA, where the relations with Russia due to various reasons have become the most pressing of issues within the domestic policy debate, was moderately negative, as expected. It is no easy to find an American politician nowadays who would provide unequivocal support towards cooperation with our country. Unfortunately, such a situation is likely to preserve in the foreseeable future, as it reflects the persistent sentiment that the majority in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and among American political elites in general, hold.

In Russia, the mere fact of holding the meeting was perceived differently. Our commentators have long been waiting for good news from the American front, and such an enthusiastically overestimated reaction to the outcomes of the summit also has its own explanation. Despite the long-repeated bravura statements that Russia lives in an isolated fashion, not bothering with American sanctions, and life develops according to its own laws, with the state rigidly dictating its own rules. In the era of globalization, no matter how it is treated, the United States and Russia are becoming more interdependent and intertwined, and no state is able to resist this process. Moreover, such interdependence will only increase the ensuing consequences for all participants of the world politics, including our country. Therefore, ignoring the importance of restoring normal relations with the United States for our country would be, at the least, unreasonable.

Leaving aside the first and, at times, very emotional comments on the outcomes of the meeting between President Putin and President Trump, one can conclude that the meeting will undoubtedly become a political asset to both presidents. This is the case when, with good reason, it is appropriate to say that it is a win-win situation for both sides, and no one has lost.

Firstly, it is important that such a meeting took place at all. This event in itself has strong, positive implications for the future of Russia-U.S. relations. It is only regrettable that it had not happened before the heat of anti-Russian passions in Washington reached the present levels. Now, it is important, despite everything, to consolidate the practice of holding such meetings regularly, since the very act of holding them brings a huge positive potential for the development of Russia-U.S. relations.

The meeting of the presidents of Russia and the United States formally opened the door for contact at the level of administration offices of the two countries. In addition to regular negotiations involving foreign ministers, it is urgent to restore contacts through other ministries and agencies. The Russian side, in my opinion, should not be afraid to initiate such contacts when it is justified: in this case, any delays will be a detriment to our progress in establishing and maintaining relations. Moreover, after the meeting of the presidents, one should not be afraid that some steps towards restoring relations with Washington may be classically critiqued as «unpatriotic». Today, conversely, «unpatriotic» actions would be the ones aimed at further inflaming tensions between our countries. This tension is increasingly contrary to Russia's interests, creating additional difficulties for both domestic and foreign affairs.

Additionally, reaching agreements on the interaction between Russia and the United States in Syria is extremely important. Such cooperation through diplomacy, military action, and special services, if they gain the appropriate momentum, may eventually become a key factor in the resolution of the Syrian conflict as a whole. Equally important is the restoration of trust between our countries in order to jointly react to universal security threats. We must realize that confidence does not grow from unilateral action. Rather, it is shaped through joint efforts to solve specific problems. This was the case during the Cold War. So it was during the period of detente. Thus, it must also be the case in the 21st century. Relations between Russia and the United States at present stage are a key factor in restoring manageability of international affairs, uniting the efforts of the international community to counter modern threats and challenges. Subsequently, the Syrian agreements might become the starting point for the beginning of this complex but essential process.

In that perspective it is also important to consider the agreement on the establishment of a dialogue on crisis resolution in Ukraine. The Ukrainian crisis has long outgrown the borders of this country, having turned into a serious international problem. If we do not work multilaterally to formulate ways to resolve the crisis, the situation in the entire Euro-Atlantic region will be complicated and strained, and not doing so would also hamper the implementation of important large-scale economic, as well as security, projects in the region. As time has shown, it is nearly impossible to solve this task without direct participation of the USA. Should the efforts of Russia, the leading European countries, and the United States be combined, the chances of success will increase significantly.

The presidents also have touched upon the critical issues involving cyberspace. It is not surprising that this topic of the meeting prompted widespread criticism in the U.S., given that the criticism of the legitimacy of the Trump Administration is mostly centered on issues of cyberspace and cybersecurity. Yet, this criticism should not stop meaningful negotiation. We remember the years of the Cold War, when the USSR and the United States were actively modernizing their nuclear capabilities, but at the same time were successfully negotiating the reduction of nuclear arms and improved control over them. Today, cyber weapons are becoming even more dangerous than nuclear weapons for the security of our countries. To postpone the beginning of a dialogue on this issue would mean to expose the growing threat to our own security and international security in general. Russia and the United States will still have to talk about cyberthreats, including threats to nuclear armament. The sooner such dialogue begins, the more likely these issues will be addressed and resolved successfully.

On the example of relations between Russia and the United States, one can find a confirmation of the old truth: relations are easy to destroy, but very difficult to restore. Another truth that must be addressed is this: no matter how difficult the task is, no one will solve it but us. A big burden of problems has accumulated between our countries. Some of them can be solved quickly if proper attention on either side is devoted to them, and some will have to be passed on to future generations. However, it is not confrontation, but cooperation that determines long-term strategic interests of Russia and the United States. The image of the two presidents shaking hands at Hamburg is a resounding symbol of this commitment to cooperation.


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Poll conducted

  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
     36 (35%)
    Restoring multilateral negotiation process without any preliminary conditions  
     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
     22 (21%)
    Armed conflict still cannot be avoided  
     12 (12%)
    Stonger deterrence on behalf of the U.S. through modernization of military infrastructure in the region  
     4 (4%)
    Toughening economic sanctions against North Korea  
     2 (2%)
 
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