Vladimir Putin may be coming to visit the White House soon. The summit, which is what Putin aide Yury Ushakov called it, doesn’t have a date just yet, but the Russian government hopes it will be soon. Via TASS:
“After the conversation, which was constructive and business-like and touched upon many issues, there was another breakdown in our bilateral relations, 60 diplomats were expelled, our consulate was closed and Russia had to give a tit-for-tat response to that,” Ushakov said. “Since March 20 – the day when the telephone conversation took place – there have been no specific discussions of a possible meeting,” he added. “In the wake of the recent developments, it would be difficult to discuss a summit,” he pointed out. According to Ushakov, since March 20, “there was no time for such discussions and no one to take part in them.” However, in his words, Russia believes such an event “would be rather important and beneficial for both countries, as well as for the entire global community.”
“We would like to believe that preparations for such a meeting will begin,” the Kremlin aide said. “We would also like to hope that there would be an end to the steps the Americans have taken based on groundless allegations,” he noted, adding that it would make it to “launch a very serious and constructive dialogue.”
“Groundless allegations” is obviously a reference to the death of Sergei Skripal in Britain and the ensuing expulsion of diplomats by the U.S., Britain, and Russia. What’s interesting is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested to reporters today it was the UK who could have offed Skripal, not the Kremlin. Via TASS:
“There are other explanations besides the ones, which our Western colleagues trumpet that only ‘the Russian trace’ can be considered to be the final verdict,” Lavrov said.
“Experts say this may be rather advantageous for Britain’s special services, which are known for their ability to act with a license to kill. This can be also beneficial to the British government which found itself in an inconvenient situation after failing to fulfill its promises to voters on Brexit’s conditions,” the top diplomat pointed out.
I’d love to know who these “experts” are and whether they did a James Bond marathon over the Easter holiday. The Independent wrote it was mostly Russian media pushing the “Britain killed Skripal” theory, not really any Western outlets, while also noting Putin’s government has been acting guilty.
Ben Nimmo, of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said many Russian news articles furthering the theories were based on “interviews with former security chiefs and weird commentators” with no expertise or credibility.
He told The Independent a mounting disinformation campaign was using the “same techniques” as those seen after incidents including the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 using a missile from Russia.
“You can think of them as dismiss, distort, distract and dismay,” Mr Nimmo said. “You insult the critic, then distort by falsifying the evidence.
“Distract is the whole ‘if they accuse you, you accuse them’ method, and then there’s the conspiracy theorists. Dismay comes when they threaten ‘horrible things will happen if you do this’.”
It will be curious to see if the Skirpal situation ends up scuttling the Trump/Putin meet, although I hope it doesn’t. There is certainly something to be said for reducing tensions between foreign governments and trying to normalize relations (see Obama doing the same to Cuba, which was the right thing to do). Putin may be a dictator and have a horrible human rights record but he won’t be in power forever, unless he has the same doctor as Fidel Castro. It took the better part of a century for the USSR to fall and Putin’s attempt to revive the Cold War is obviously going to prolong the tempestuous relations between the Bear and the West. That doesn’t mean the U.S. shouldn’t be talking to Russia, even if the relationship ends up being at arm’s length. The way to free Russia, or any country, from the hands of a tyrant is through free trade and encouraging the liberalization of markets. Even if it takes years for anyone to see the results.