16 July 2018

The US-Russia relations around the Trump-Putin summit

Sergiu Medar

After a strong analyses of the US-Russia relation evolution, we can anticipate the subjects of the discussions that will happen on 16th of July, in Helsinki, between the leaders of the two big powers. These relations had an evolution that mostly depended, at least in the past 40 years, on the relation that the leaders of the two states had and especially on the political group orientation that led them to the highest position of their states.

Image source: Mediafax

The first official contacts between the Russian Imperium and the US took place in 1776 and the diplomatic relation opening between the two states was in 1809. In US’s Civil War, Russia supported the Union’s forces against the Confederates. In 1867 Russia sold to US its territory, Alaska, from North America. Between 1820 and 1917 in the US came, from the Russian Imperium, around 3, 3 million immigrants. The majority was Jewish or Polonies, and only 100.000 Russians.  

During the Civil War in Russia, the US participated at the military intervention against the Bolsheviks in the Far East. After building the Soviet Union in 1922, the US was one of the biggest power of the world that did not recognize the new stat. The two big powers made diplomatic relations on 1933. 

During the Second World War, 1939-1945, the US was on the same side as URSS, fighting against Germany.

In 1945, after the Second World War ended, in San Francisco it is organized, through a conference of all nations, United Nations Organizations (ONU), having the head office in New York, and the mission to assure the “world peace”, “respecting human rights”, “international cooperation” and “respecting international right”. The world’s security issues were approached by the Security Council, which consists of the US, Russia (continuing the URSS’s mandate), Great Britain, France and China. One of these state’s conditions was to not extend their territories. The only country that did not respect its commitments at that time was the Soviet Union.

According with the functioning rulebook of ONU, meanwhile the other organs of the United Nations can only make recommendations to the member states, the Security Council has the power to take mandatory decisions which the member states must accept, under the terms of the Art. 25 of the ONU rulebook.

Between 1945 and 1949, the Security Council of ONU which goes on unanimity principle of the permanent member’s votes, could not notify any resolution regarding the nation’s security,  as the Soviet Union used each time, its veto right.  Considering this hostile attitude, on 4th of April, 1949, 12 western states create the North Atlantic Organization (NATO) having firstly the purpose of assuring collective security of the member state’s alliances. From that moment the Soviet Union, nowadays Russia, saw NATO and the US as threats or declared enemies, with relaxed and tensioned periods.

Starting March 1947, the foreign policy of the US followed the principles from the Truman Doctrine. Among other concrete strategic projects, offering identical nonrefundable financial support to Greece and Turkey, stopped the military conflict between the two states, strongly divided due to historical arbitrament.

Considering the success of Marshall’s Plan in Western Europe, according to some NATO documents declassified in the next 10 years, the US wanted its extension (or launching something similar) addressed to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Under Soviet Union’s control, all of these states could not give a positive answer to this proposal. In these circumstances, the US proposed Marshall’s Plan to the Soviet Union itself, which responded with a negative answer, saying “this is a form of manifestation of the American imperialism”.

In a general background, the US’s help for the European states was made under the aegis of a conception, proposed by the Secretary of State George Marshall, launched in June 1947, under the name “Marshall’s Plan”. The financial support offered by the US under the aegis of this plan assured the adjustment and the economical comeback of the Western Europe, especially Western Germany’s.

The first bilateral treaty between the US and the Soviet Union was a consular convention signed in 1965 in Moscow. In 1975 it is signed the Final Act of Helsinki, by all European states, except for Albania and Andorra, but also Canada and the two states mentioned above.  Even without executive value, this document admits the Soviet Union’s domination on Eastern Europe, as well as the annexation of Estonia, Lithuania and Leetonia, which in fact, took place in 1940. Yet, this document, through its human rights foresights, created the premises of Cold War’s ending.

In the decade between 1970 and 1980, were signed various security agreements between US and the Soviet Union: The Treaty for Anti-Ballistic control (1972), The Treaty for Limiting the Strategic Weaponry and the Nuclear Forces Treaty with small range of action (1987).

On 3th of December, 1989, at Malta’s summit, the president G. H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev declared the end of the Cold War. Starting this date, the relations between the US and Russia went depending on the political orientation of the two states leaders.  Regarding Russia’s leaders, the approaches related to the US, were relatively constant, with a hostile manifestation against this one. Russia’s objective was to block constantly, anywhere in the world, any way of success coming from the US, except fighting against terrorism. The US’s position against Russia depended on the administration’s membership at one of the parties, republican or democrat. The foreign policy of the democrats was always more conciliating, more opened to negotiation than the republicans.

 Unfortunately, the US’s availability for concessions and dialogue, was many times considered by Russia as weakness or lack or decision power.

Russia was constantly obsessed with the necessity to be recognized as the world’s biggest power. In 1994, Serghei Karaganov, counsellor of Eltin president, was saying in a conference at the US’s Defence University that Russia and the US have only one common interest, not being the third big world’s power.

The relations between the US and Russia were damaged then G.W. Bush was president of the US and Putin of Russia. After the terrorist’s attacks from 11th of September 2001, President Bush managed the US’s foreign policy to a unilateral approach regarding the fight against terrorism. Appealing to art. 5 from the Washington Treaty, the NATO states contributed to this fight. During these actions, Putin became more vocal in the international scene. The best proof was his speech at the Security Conference from Munchen 2007, when, for the first time, he attacked the US saying that the state that pretends to have the oldest democracy in the world, does not apply those democracy principles in the relations with other countries, so the principles do not apply between the states, but only in the states.

Putin criticized G.W. Bush for involving the US in the Russian influence zone through the support offered to the orange revolutions from Georgia and Ukraine. Extending NATO in Eastern Europe was considered by Russia as a threat against its national security. The truth is that the threat was not a military threat, but the fact that it was all about extending the real democracy to the east.

In 2002, the US, considering the threats coming from Iran or North Korea which were successfully developing the program of creating vector chargers at large distances, pulled back from the Treaty regarding the Anti-racket Program. This action permitted mounting anti-racket installations in Romania and Poland. Putin declared many times that the Ballistic Anti-Racket System represents a threat at Russia’s national security, comparing the mounting of its components with the racket crisis in Cuba. Moreover, the Russian leader said that “we will redirect a part of our systems to these targets”.

The second day after Barack Obama became president of the US, Dimitri Medvedev, the new president of Russia said that he will dislocate the racket systems with short range of action, Iskander, in Kaliningrad enclave, close to NATO. In the following period, the relations between Obama and Medvedev were quite closer. Both states followed their own objectives, but less aggressive.

In 2008, Russia invades Georgia, taking benefits on the irresponsible decision of Saakashvili president, proving that he wants to keep his control over the post-soviet area. After this conflict, Russia proves that it wants to continue with the aggressive policy, by taking territories that belong to other states. Previously, Russia took “de facto” South Ossetia and Abhazia. The US and the European states did not recognize this annexation.

In 2010, in this specific period, it is published the new strategic concept of NATO, a document made every 10 years. In this document’s project, published on NATO’s website in May 2010, it is mentioned:” The allies often showed their concern regarding Russia’s possible tendencies to commit in intimidating political or economic actions”, “because Russia’s policy’s future regarding NATO remains difficult to deal with, the allies must insist in cooperation, but in the same time to be prepared for when Russia decides to move in an opposite position”. At the creation of this document also participated military men from the states in Eastern-Europe.  In the final version of this document, made in November the same year, the text was modified as following: “NATO-Russia cooperation is strategically important and contributes at creating a common space for peace, stability and security. NATO does not represent a threat for Russia. Quite the opposite, we want to see a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia and we will do so and will wait for a mutual response coming from Russia”. Of course, Russia did not appreciated the diplomatic state’s elegancy but, comparing with the document’s first version, saw this one as a manifestation of weakness and started to act in consequence.

In May 2012 was the NATO summit in Chicago, at which it should have participated also the new Russian president. In the same month, after the NATO summit, in a conference of the military structures of the CSI states, in Moscow, a Russian general, in Vladimir Putin’s presence, said that Russia reserves its right to preemptive attacks against ballistic anti-racket racket launching facilities.  So the General Secretary of NATO transmitted the Russian leader that his presence at the Summit (Putin’s first presence after taking Georgia), is not welcomed. As a consequence, Putin made at the end of the same month, in Moscow, a summit of the CSI states. With this occasion, he made a series of important assumptions regarding the security situation in the world, putting Russia as an important state that must be consulted, in solving any major conflict. At this summit, Putin asks the Russian authorities to make a “poli-centered international relations system”, underlining again Russia’s interest for global order. At the same time, the Russian leader affirms that on January first, 2015, he will initiate the Euro-Asiatic Economy Union, adding that he will like to see a stability arch from Atlantic to Pacific. Actually, in some maps that appeared in that period Europe is represented as “Europe Peninsula” of a new continent “Eurasia”. All that Putin did after that moment was related to the assumptions that he made on that Summit. Obama’s administration reaction was faded or inexistent.

Still, in 2012, due to disrespecting human’s fundamental rights, Obama signs Magnitsky Act, that applies financial sanctions and curfews to some Russian officials. Russia introduces the same type of restrictions to some American officials on Russia’s territory. But the result of these restrictions was not as expected. Previously, after taking Crimea, these sanctions extended on both sides.

In March 2014, Russia takes the Ukrainian territory, Crimea, after a pseudo-referendum. When the US asked for a resolution of ONU’s Security Council regarding the illegality of the referendum, Russia used its veto right (China did not vote) so Crimea remained abusively on Russian’s territory, unrecognized by some of Russia’s  authority states area. President Obama, at the resolution’s demand, said that Crimea’s annexation made by Russia does not represent a threat against the US’s security, especially because Russia is a “regional power”.

In December 2014, Putin publicly shows the Military Doctrine, and in the same month of 2015, Russia’s National Security Strategy. After a close analyses, we can see that the two documents, that are similar, actually create the legislation passing to war condition or military intervention in any part of the globe. It is for the first time Russia identifies its enemy, showing that the US and NATO can be threats against Russia’s national security.

Again, Obama’s administration reaction was below the Easter Europe states expected level. The US’s conciliating position encouraged Russia to make new aggressive manifestations. We can mention the intervention in Syria. In this case the US accepted Russia to be the one which assumes the responsibility of destroying the chemical weaponry and equipment of Bashar al Assad’s army. Under the excuse of fighting against ISIS groups, the Russian air force was dislocated in Syria supporting actually the forces that were loyal to the Syrian leader. This is how the civil war in Syria becomes a proxy war, having as sponsors Russia and the US. If at the beginning the US’s and Russia’s forces would not have been in direct contact, this year they made collision that ended up with a lot of victims, between Russian mercenaries and US troops. Russia did not recognize that the mercenaries were under Kremlin’s coordination. This ambiguous situation in Syria, which still continues, can be at any time the flame that can lead to a major confrontation between the two big powers.

By electing Donald Trump as the president of the United Stated, the relations between the two states modified. The “America First” principle made by the new president, it’s a strong message regarding  that the American administration’s refuses to pay from American’s tax payer the security of other states, wants the states to augment their own security financing. This is actually the main divergence of NATO, as we saw at the recent summit.

During its electoral campaign, Trump seemed to support the developing of the relation with Russia, through a reconciliation. Involving Russia in this campaign, by its support with informational war methods, seemed to be proved with irrefutable evidences by the American authorities. Actually, there are suspicions that Russia applies the same methods with European states.

In US’s national security strategy, Russia is mentioned, among China, North Korea and Iran, as “challenges” against the US’s national security. We can observe the different approach of the relations between the two states. Russia considers the US as a “threat” for Russia, meanwhile Russia is just a “challenge” for the US.  

Also, Trump administration, through the Center for Strategic and International Studies –CSIS in Washington, made in March 2017 a complex analytical document called “Recalibrating US’s strategy against Russia”. In this document, Russia is a revisionist and opportunist state, which acts as an enemy against the western norms, rules and values. In this process Russia uses a large series of military and non-military methods. In non-military coercive methods category, the document mentions: “entering the western state’s cyber spaces which allows a successful deployment of the political influence operations”. It is confirmed, also, that for a long time the US ignored this danger, but when they realized it, it was not capable of reacting efficiently.

Regarding the military methods, Russia actions with the operations that are a part of the new asymmetric war type, which uses new technical ways supported a lot of times by the last inventions in the artificial intelligence area, as well as operations that can be included in the disinformation or covering area, with electronic war methods. 

Recalibrating US’s strategy with Russia has a strong critic of US’s previous policies, but also of other western states which, naively, were fooled by the Russian propaganda and believed in Russia’s reducing the risks policy, transparency and predictability.

A symbol that marks Russia’s  aggressiveness climax against the US and the Occident, can be the subject of the conference organized by Valdai Group in 16-19 October 2017, “Creative destruction: will the current conflicts lead to a new global order?”, that Vladimir Putin participated at, among the representatives of 35 countries. From the Russian’s leader speech it came out that Russia wants a new global order in which must have an essential role and it is ready to gain this positions, even if that involves a war.

After the analyses of these relations we can see the US and Russia have a lot of opened security issues, but also economic ones that will definitely not be solved in a one hour or two meeting. Probably, they will mention some subjects important for the two states. Putin considers that the most important chapter is the one regarding the sanctions made by the US and EU, and he will try to convince Trump to give up to these sanctions. But these were made by US’s Congress, where Trump has no chances to say something as a lot of the republicans will vote against this decision. The US will probably insist on retracting Russia from Crimea and South-East Ukraine, which is unacceptable for Russia. Also irreconcilable will be the aspects regarding Iran, Syria (Bashar al Assad), North Korea, Turkey, China and others.

The two leaders might have partially convergent approaches regarding the commercial taxes against the European Union and China and also against terrorism. Putin will try to create a rupture between the US and EU as well as between US and China. Probably, during the meeting, Putin who is an experimented informational officer, will try to obtain more information from Trump, regarding the NATO summit, to augment the breach created in NATO, through elicitation methods/ covering the true intentions during the discussions.  

I do not think that we have to wait for spectacular results from the meeting in 16th of July, between Putin and Trump, as, we will probably say, as we said for the Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting, that it is important that the met and changed opinions.



Wikipedia: „United States – Russia relations”

Military Doctrine of Russia Federation https://rusemb.org.uk/press/2029

CSIS “Recalibrating US Strategy towards Russia”