Seeing the Substance in Trump-Putin Meeting

The first meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin achieved  potentially life-saving progress on the Syrian crisis, but the U.S. media/political world can’t get past its obsession with Russia-gate, reports Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The U.S. mainstream media’s obsessive focus on President Trump’s tone when he asked President Putin about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election – and whether Trump accepted Putin’s denial – left under-reported what was actually achieved during the possibly historic meeting.

President Trump discusses his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

To be sure, there was not all that much substance because substance normally requires detailed advance preparation by teams from both sides, something which could not and did not occur due to the intense pressure from Trump’s political opponents and even from several of his own advisers, who wanted no meeting at all or a confrontational meeting as opposed to constructive meeting if any.

That being said, there was one concrete piece of business which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned in his July 7 press briefing immediately afterwards: a cease-fire in southwest Syria along with the creation of a joint U.S.-Russian center for de-confliction in Jordan, where the U.S. military coordination of the Syrian theater is located, to oversee a return to civilian life in the southwest area.

That move appears to be a positive development, with the cease-fire holding better than some earlier ones have — and adding one more zone to the six de-confliction areas established during meetings in Astana between the warring parties and under the guaranty of Turkey, Iran and Russia.

It would be still better if there had been some progress on the more dangerous zone of eastern and southeastern Syria along the Euphrates, where U.S.-backed forces of the Free Syrian Army have clashed with Syrian government forces and where the U.S. shot down a Syrian bomber a couple of weeks ago, causing the Russians to cut military hot lines and to threaten to target all U.S. and…

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