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29 Jun, 2018 15:24

'Trump wants to be his own drummer at Putin meeting after NATO Summit' – Jim Jatras

NATO & several EU countries have an irreconcilable anti-Russian stance, while others don't want pointless enmity with Moscow, so Trump won't come to meet Putin with any kind of unity behind him, former US diplomat Jim Jatras said.

Washington and Moscow have announced that the first summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will take place in Helsinki in July following the NATO summit in Brussels. The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, has welcomed the news, saying dialogue is a sign of strength.

Meanwhile, despite the latest diplomatic efforts, new allegations are emerging of collusion between a US politician and Russia. This time, National Security Advisor John Bolton is in the spotlight. Some commentators are describing him as "Kremlin-affiliated" after meeting Vladimir Putin.

RT asked Jatras what he makes of these allegations of Bolton's links with the Kremlin.

Jim Jatras: It is really hard to talk about that and keep a straight face. If there is anybody who is not a Kremlin agent, it is John Bolton. Who else can you think of on the American political spectrum? We've had such hysteria in the last well over a year, even before the election regarding Donald Trump and Russia, trying to block any kind of normalization of ties with Russia… I think some people are really becoming unhinged. There was one fellow on CNN the other day talking about how "Putin has devoured Trump." I think Mr Bolton, who is by no means pro-Russian, is saying "Yes, there is reason why the leaders of these two countries need to talk and find solutions of the mutual concerns." Who can disagree with that? Unfortunately, we have a lot of people who I think have literally become hysterical and do disagree with that.  

RT: What do you think President Trump will be hoping to get out of this summit in Helsinki, and what do you think Putin wants?

JJ: I think Trump is focused on the big picture. And that is America's national interest. That is one of the reasons why he met with President Xi of China early on despite some differences we have with China over trade in particular. He realizes that Russia is the key player, not only in places like Ukraine and Syria, and also has a significant influence in the Korean situation, but that we need to find some kind of a broader understanding with the other major power on this planet. I think that is the first thing. And the mere fact that he now feels free enough to go forward with that meeting, I think it is quite significant. As far as Mr Putin [is concerned], I think he would like to take some steps toward just normalizing our relations, maybe starting to repair some of the tit-for-tat on the diplomatic front. But I don't expect to see anything major, particularly on the question of sanctions, which is what everybody here in Washington always raises as soon as you talk about Russia.      

Most Americans would hope that whatever the US and Russia could agree on would be able to be discussed. And so that if there are some good things they could agree on, they can move forward on those things. And certainly, whatever they disagree on should be discussed as well. This is what is wrong with so much of politics right now… that those who disagree don't talk… I think that the dialogue is good. And it is a lot better than sending a misspelled 'reset' button or having a hot mic moment like we saw with President Obama…- Dr Gina Loudon, psychology expert, political analyst and author

RT: If Trump and Putin do manage to build a strong relationship, how will Europe react?

JJ: I think it is important that Mr Trump is coming to Helsinki to meet with Mr Putin right after the NATO summit. And I think what a lot of people would like to see from that summit is unity of NATO in going then into the talks with the Russians. But there isn't unity there. You have a very irreconcilable anti-Russian position of Poland, the Baltic states and to some extent Romania. But with the rest of the alliance, it is much more mixed. The Germans, for example, want to see that Nord Stream tube built. And they don't want the US threatening sanctions against countries that participate in it. The new Italian government, the new government in Austria… There are governments within NATO, of course, Austria is not a NATO member, but within Europe who don't want to see this pointless enmity with Russia continue. I don't think Mr Trump will be coming to meet with Mr Putin with any kind of unity behind his back.   

I think the main message from the Trump administration is that they want to seek peace, if peace is possible. And we've seen that approach achieved some success in North Korea. I think there has been a drumbeat to war, conflict and bad relations with Russia that has been fueled by the establishment in the UK & US. I think Trump does offer a potential of a reset to that… I think it is a summit that has far more potential than a summit between Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin would have. - Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the conservative think-tank The Bow Group

RT: Trump will meet with Putin right after attending a NATO summit, is that going to be a difficult balancing act?

JJ: I think Mr Trump wants to be his own drummer here… At the G7 meeting in Toronto, I don't think he let himself be intimidated by what the other people there at the table thought. Whatever he hears in Brussels from the other European leaders, he is going to go forward with his own priorities when he goes to talk to Mr Putin. I expect it is going to be some issue on the American side in terms of the advice he gets from Mr Bolton, Mr Pompeo, other people on his team who don't particularly want to see a warming of relations with Russia. I think the discussion of Ukraine may be very contentious. On the one hand, we have the Secretary of State Pompeo saying there is no reason Russia couldn't return to G8 even if Crimea remains in Russia, but he is also saying that Ukraine needs to become part of NATO, which from the Russians point of view, I think would be very provocative to discuss that.

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