The Russian premiums case confirms the difficulty of a Trump-Putin rapprochement

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Donald Trump’s first term in the White House has been punctuated by unsuccessful attempts at rapprochement with Russia. And now that it is coming to an end, this will comes up against the news again and again.

A complex case has come to remind how much normalization proves impossible for the President of the United States, who nevertheless had once again proposed to invite to the next G7 summit his counterpart Vladimir Putin, who had been excluded in 2014 of what was then the G8 for having annexed Crimea.

According to the New York Times, American intelligence has acquired the conviction that Moscow had distributed bonuses to insurgents for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Has the Republican President been informed, as claimed by several media? And if so, why didn’t he fight back? And if not, why did those around him judge that the commander-in-chief should not be made aware of an event so explosive?

Questions and speculations have been flowing since this weekend, reinforced by a confused communication from the White House.

After ensuring that the secret services did not consider this information “credible”, the presidency finally assured Monday that there was “no consensus” at this stage in intelligence. And that as a result Donald Trump had not been briefed on this file before he burst into the open.

But too late, the viscerally anti-Russian American political class had already stepped up to the plate.

“A desaster”

With Donald Trump, “all roads lead to Putin,” said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner has even argued for Russia to be blacklisted by states supporting terrorism.

Because the Russian dossier is one of the only ones on which the president’s camp is still rebelling against his boss.

The suspicion against him finds its source in his pre-electoral promise of an improvement in relations with Vladimir Putin, but also on the suspicions of collusion between the Kremlin and his campaign team which poisoned a good part of his mandate.

And Donald Trump put the fire on the fire in the summer of 2018 in Helsinki when he seemed to want to believe the Russian president who had just denied head-to-head any interference in the 2016 American presidential – who however, there is no doubt about American intelligence.

“It was a disaster,” recalls James Jay Carafano of the Conservative Heritage Foundation. “I think the president has learned from it,” he told AFP.

All American presidents since the end of the Cold War have promised to improve ties with Moscow, with mixed results.

According to James Jay Carafano, who was a member of Donald Trump’s transition team just after his election, his own promises were “as superficial as those of others.”

“Front door”

“He did not have a secret plan to improve relations with Russia,” he said.

The problem, he summed up bluntly, “is that to have better relations with Russia, you would have to change Putin”, “and there is not the slightest sign that Putin wants to change”.

This expert nevertheless defends the current policy of the Trump administration, which in fact displayed a certain firmness towards the Russians.

Information on Russian premiums in Afghanistan confirms that a merger “is not an option”, he still believes.

For Matthew Rojansky, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, it even shows how bad relations have deteriorated.

“For those who follow the case, it is not surprising to learn that the Russians are looking for ways to kill Americans. We are in conflict with these people,” he said.

Six years of sanctions have shown that the United States can “do a little harm to Russia, but not at all to the point of causing it to change its attitude”.

And according to him, the escalation is likely to continue, especially since Moscow no longer seems to really bet on President-candidate Trump as in the past.

However, this expert recalls that even during the darkest hours of the Cold War, the dialogue was not completely broken.

The two rival powers could therefore take advantage of the discussions they launched last week on the New Start treaty on nuclear weapons to deepen their exchanges.

“If we’re looking for a front door, this is it,” insists Matthew Rojansky.

30/06/2020 13:21:14 – 
        Washington (AFP) – 
        © 2020 AFP

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