Anxious mood ahead of Trump-Putin summit

At their meeting this Monday in Helsinki Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin plan to discuss the situation in Syria and Ukraine and arms control, among other topics. Observers in Europe worry that the Russian president may persuade his American counterpart to make major concessions. The press speculates about the results of the summit.

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Kansan Uutiset (FI) /

Meeting a bag of surprises

It's completely unclear what the results of the summit will be, writes Kansan Uutiset:

“During Cold War times summits between the heads of state of the US and Russia were predictable events. There were a number of contentious issues that were known in advance and they either came closer to a solution or they didn't. With the meeting between Putin and Trump in Helsinki this is different. No one really knows what will be negotiated or what to expect. On the one hand people believe the relations between the US and Russia are as bad as during the Cold War. Then there's the suspicion that Putin has Trump eating out of his hand and that in Helsinki a new Yalta agreement dealing out spheres of influence will be signed. So it's unclear whether we should fear an improvement or a worsening of relations.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Trump no longer represents the West

Ahead of the summit Lidové noviny wonders who exactly will be sitting opposite Russia's President Putin in Helsinki:

“We were used to a US president who represented not just the US but to a certain extent the entire West. That was the case between Roosevelt and Stalin, Kennedy and Khrushchev, Nixon and Brezhnev, Reagan and Gorbachev. Can we imagine Trump in such a position? This is the fundamental question ahead of the Helsinki summit. For one and a half years - and most recently at the Nato summit last week in Brussels - we have seen Trump as the leader of the US, not of the West. Putin is too much of a professional not to have grasped this and take advantage of it.”

Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

Putin as the lesser evil

Putin could take advantage of the fact that many European states now consider Trump the greater evil, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia writes:

“To a certain extent such an assessment is insulting to Russia, which is used to the idea that the more it is feared, the more it will be respected. On the other hand it gives Russia room to manoeuvre if the Europeans see it less as a security problem and more as a potential helper in countering current threats. In fact some of the states, above all in Southern Europe, support the idea of cooperating with Russia in the Middle East with an eye to finding long-term solutions to the problems of migration and terrorism.”

Le Monde (FR) /

The egos match, the interests don't

The cooperation between the two presidents won't last long, writes sociologist Vladislav Inozemtsev, Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies, in Le Monde:

“It seems to me that this summit was only organised to satisfy the ambitions and the egos of the two presidents. ... Is a partnership between Trump's America and Putin's Russia possible? In the medium term this shouldn't be ruled out - and that should worry the Europeans. But will the US and Russia remain friends in the long term? That seems unlikely to me, because such a friendship would require common values and interests, not just two leaders who admire each other but who fail to inspire respect in the rest of the world.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Rift between Europe and US deepening

After the Nato summit Trump's meeting with Putin is unlikely to leave Europeans feeling at all reassured, the Irish Examiner believes:

“More worried than angry, most European leaders have so far been loath to provoke Trump with open criticism. They fear the summit with Putin will deal their relations with Washington another blow by selling out Western security. ... Putin could persuade Trump to halt US-led Nato military exercises in Poland and the Baltic states that Russia vehemently opposes, and try to ease US sanctions on Russia without addressing Crimea. Either would be devastating for Western interests. ... Whatever happens, the summit will almost certainly deepen the rift between the US and its European allies.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

A Ukraine-Syria deal is possible

Radio Kommersant FM believes a 'mega deal' could be signed on Ukraine and Syria in Helsinki:

“Assad in exchange for recognition of Crimea and the lifting of sanctions - there has been speculation about such a deal since 2014. And incidentally, four days before the meeting Netanyahu flew to Moscow once more. Israel's prime minister is increasingly seen as Moscow's intercessor in America. ... The current version of the speculation is that Trump is willing to ease the sanctions imposed over Ukraine but in exchange Moscow must a) see to it that Iran and Hezbollah leave Syria, and b) relinquish any kind of partnership with Tehran. The fact that Russian media are increasingly reporting on successes achieved by the Assad army and that another Russian unit may be returning home victorious is an indirect sign that this is in preparation.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

No end justifies these means

Former Washington correspondent Jędrzej Bielecki speculates in Rzeczpospolita on the strategic goals Donald Trump is pursuing with his meeting with Putin:

“In the best case one could assume that the meeting is part of a large, strategic game the Pentagon and the White House are playing. Back in the days when the Soviet Union was the US's arch-enemy, Henry Kissinger sought rapprochement with China so as to jointly hold Moscow in check. Today, now that Beijing is Washington's main rival, strategists are pursuing the opposite tactic. ... But if this really is the case it may turn out that the end doesn't justify the means. The recognition of the annexation of Crimea would be tantamount to agreeing to the Russia's violation of fundamental principles of international law and would be an invitation for Russia to go ahead and do it again.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Trump not interested in Crimea or Syria

According to Ria Novosti Trump's real objective with the summit has nothing to do with Crimea or Syria:

“He needs cooperation with Russia on very different issues which are far more important for the White House: if the US can't get Russia to cooperate on the oil market, Washington's current Iran policy will run into difficulties, indirectly harming the US economy and causing considerable direct economic damage for key allies. ... For that reason Trump must ask for Russia's support - rather than use threats. The main intrigue of the summit, consequently, lies in determining which concessions on global issues or regional conflicts the US president is willing to make in order to secure Russian concessions in return.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Possibility of a highly dangerous pact

Europe must prepare to face a threatening scenario, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“Donald Trump no longer represents his partners' interests. ... On the contrary. Like Putin, he is now pursuing an aggressive, nationalistic policy aimed at weakening the European Union. ... The EU must get ready for the US and Russia making deals behind its back and against its interests. That can be very dangerous. ... In any event it would be smart to prepare for the worst possible scenario: Trump betraying the West, and - covertly and on certain issues - making deals with Russia. The Europeans would then be left to their own devices. The states and parties in the EU that are now weakening Europe should bear that in mind.”

BNS (LT) /

How the Kremlin could manipulate Trump

Security policy expert Edward Lucas outlines in BNS the strategy Putin's advisers could be preparing for his meeting with Trump:

“Begin with extravagant praise for his leadership in restoring high-level ties with Russia. ... The American leader’s scepticism about Nato is well known, so begin by expressing sympathy with the burden that the US taxpayer has to bear in subsidising the defence of European allies who are ungrateful and unfriendly. Mention trade deficits and excessive European welfare spending in the same breath - the connection is economic nonsense but it will touch a raw nerve. Point out that keeping American bases in Europe is expensive, and that the money would be better spent on bases in the US. Then, remark that Russia also bears unfair burdens. This will pivot the conversation neatly on to sanctions.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

The bogeyman of reconciliation

Not only Europe but also Russia fear that the world could be a different place after the meeting, Radio Kommersant FM notes:

“What if Trump succumbs to Putin's charm and the Russian president winds his politically inexperienced counterpart around his little finger? And what if Trump then renounces any involvement in the European security system, cuts Nato financing and withdraws his troops from Eastern Europe? ... Building relations isn't that easy. Here in Russia, as in the West, we've grown used to confrontation. ... The Kremlin now also has some explaining to do to its population: not so long ago America was the bogeyman, and now? ... And who will it blame for domestic problems when it turns out that the outside world isn't so hostile after all?”

France Inter (FR) /

US president wants to cast himself as peacemaker

Geopolitics expert Bernard Guetta explains on the website of radio station France Inter why Donald Trump is now so keen to strike up a dialogue with Vladimir Putin:

“What a coincidence that Trump and Putin - the two men who want to bring Europe down - announced their first meeting, which apparently will take place next month in Helsinki, on the day before the ill-fated EU summit. The US and Russia are moving closer together just as the Union is falling apart. If the embrace between Kim and Trump in Singapore is any indication, the US president will be very willing to make concessions to Putin in all areas so he can cast himself as a peacemaker in the congressional elections in mid-November.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

Dialogue is definitely a good thing

Despite all the risks Aamulehti welcomes the news of the planned meeting between Trump and Putin:

“It's impossible to say what the outcome of the talks between Trump and Putin will be. Unpredictability is a popular strategy on both sides. ... The meeting is a source of worry for the US's partners. ... One concern is that Trump could weaken Nato's authority by for example reducing the US's military commitments vis-à-vis Europe, or promising to cancel the US participation in the military exercises planned for this autumn in Norway, or accepting the annexation of Crimea. ... Nonetheless diplomacy, meetings and talks are always a good thing, and that's why we should welcome the news that the two presidents will meet in Finland.”