The G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany has been a mixed success for American president Donald Trump.
On the one hand, Trump negotiated a ceasefire for southwestern Syria with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. American-backed rebels have been fighting the Russian-backed regime of Bashar Assad there.
On the other hand, he didn’t elicit Russia’s support for the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is Trump’s priority.
On the one hand, G20 leaders conditioned open markets on “reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade” in their summit declaration and recognized the role of “legitimate trade defense instruments” — a political victory for Trump.
Shirley Bassey reminds us that we all come full circle sometimes:
The word is about, there’s something evolving
Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here
That the revolution’s near
But to me it seems quite clear
That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating
Tension between the United States and North Korea, Russian involvement in Western elections, talk of a nuclear arms race and the use of phrases like “disinformation” — the present day has an aura of déjà vu. Like we’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again, to paraphrase Ms Bassey.
The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of the president’s top advisors, proposed setting up a secret back channel with the Kremlin in December during a meeting that was also attended by General Michael Flynn.
According to The Post, Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, reported to Moscow in a cable that was intercepted by American spies that Kushner had suggested to him using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the back channel.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
In short, if it wasn’t one thing, it would have been another.
It didn’t have to have to be a gas attack. It could have been a stray Russian shell in some Ukrainian city, a dead exiled opposition leader on the streets of a Western capital city, a major hacking attack against a critical American target, a crucial NATO ally “flipped” by a Russian disinformation campaign or a released set of Trump e-mails.
It could have been Donald Trump waking up one day to realize the Russians aren’t interested in destroying the Islamic State so long as IS distracts the Americans and grinds down anti-Assad rebels.
It could have been when Trump tried to rally Moscow to support a new round of sanctions or military threats against North Korea.
Perhaps Trump’s bromance might have ended with a shooting incident over Finnish skies or maybe he’d have changed his mind if Russian troops showed up in Libya to prop up Moscow’s increasingly favorited local strongman, Khalifa Haftar.
Former China ambassador Jon Huntsman is the latest Russia hawk to join the Donald Trump Administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Huntsman would succeed John F. Tefft as the American ambassador in Moscow.
Other appointments sure to trouble the Kremlin include Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Advisor Herbert Raymond McMaster and the White House senior director for Europe and Russia, Fiona Hill. All have been critical of Vladimir Putin.
Was there anyone on Donald Trump’s campaign not talking to the Russians?
The latest news is that Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States in September, when he was serving as foreign-policy advisor on the presidential campaign.
We don’t know what the two discussed, but we do know that Sessions lied about the conversation taking place.