Well, it's official: a Putin-Trump summit meeting is in the works. The real question is, what are they going to talk about? So many people sent me this article I have to comment about it, but again, what are they going to talk about? Some things are, of course, obvious:
2) The Ukraine (and with it, possibly, the Crimea)
3) Space militarization and commercialization.
With respect to the latter point, Russia has recently issued yet another caution about the militarization of space. This is predictable, since Russia has nowhere near the West's private space corporations. In fact, to my knowledge, it has none at all, and as we have noted elsewhere on this site, Mr. Putin recently curtailed Russian defense spending to focus on building up Russia's domestic infrastructure, particularly in Siberia. Such a step is necessary with the dramatic expansion of Russian agriculture, which demands a dramatic expansion of Russia's rail and road transportation infrastructure.
So what's the story? This article, as noted, was shared by many people:
From one point of view, Britain's alarm over the approaching summit is perfectly understandable, for it has long been a goal of British geopolitics to contain Russia, and to prevent "the two unthinkable nightmares", i.e., (1) a Russo-German understanding or alliance, and (2) a Russo-American understanding or alliance. The latter possibility was starkly dramatized during the American War Between the States, when France and Britain were both considering an intervention on the side of the Confederacy. British officers, for example, were present with General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg as observers. The failure of that campaign, plus the Russian Tsar Alexander II, who sent his fleet to Union ports, made the message clear; France and Britian backed off, and the American Civil War remained an American affair.
The article makes it clear that the summit could upend NATO plans to "deter Russian aggression":
Mr Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G8 this month, wrecking Mrs May’s efforts to further isolate Mr Putin after the Salisbury poisonings. Mr Trump then linked US funding of Nato to the trade dispute with the EU, singling out Germany for special criticism.
The prospect of a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Putin appals British officials. “It’s unclear if this meeting is after or before Nato and the UK visit,” a Whitehall official said. “Obviously after would be better for us. It adds another dynamic to an already colourful week.”….
A senior western diplomatic source said that a Trump-Putin meeting before the Nato summit would cause “dismay and alarm”, adding: “It would be a highly negative thing to do.”
Nato is due to discuss an escalation of measures to deter Russian aggression. “Everyone is perturbed by what is going on and is fearing for the future of the alliance,” a Whitehall source said.
From the Trump Administration's perspective, however, little is to be gained by listening to the weak and indecisive May Government. And on the continent of Europe, Mad Madam Merkel's government is in an even more precarious state.
But I suspect there is one more item on the Putin-Trump summit agenda, and it has nothing to do with NATO, Europe, or the two Mad Madams of Europe, Merkel and May. In last Thursday's News and Views from the Nefarium, I advanced two hypotheses about the recent Kim-Trump summit, namely, that the memorandum of understanding that was signed was really either the product of a three power pressure working behind the scenes, coming from Russia, the USA, and Japan, or it was the result of four power pressure, with China being added to the list. Mr. Xi is in a weaker position than most may think, for China does not want a trade war at this time with the USA. I advanced the idea in that News and Views, and also at greater length in the forthcoming Solari quarterly wrap-up with Catherine Fitts, that what we may be seeing are the first steps in the creation of a Korean "neutral zone", with all for powers creating an economic trade zone where their interests are spelled out and protected. Behind this there lurks the recent North Korean discovery of a bonanza of Rare Earth Elements that, with Russian, American, Japanese (and possibly Chinese) money, could develop the country. If such a neutral trade zone is in the works, then none of the four powers will want the destabilizing presence of nuclear weapons in the hands of the North Koreans.
So I strongly suspect as my high octane speculation of the day that the most important item on the Trump-Putin summit agenda will be some frank and perhaps prolonged discussions of the Korean situation, and the ironing out of the details of such a venture. Let me be clear: the USA probably cannot completely lock Russian or Chinese influence out of North Korea. That influence is there now. What needs to be gained is a foothold of American influence in Pyongyang. Time, of course, will tell if either of my two hypotheses have any merit at all. If they do, then there will be the usual two steps forward one step back dance along the way; the pattern, if any, confirming either of those two hypotheses will only emerge over the next few years.
But... if we hear that Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump did discuss Korea, then that's an indicator that the cat, while not wholly out of the bag, may at least be partially so.
See you on the flip side...