By the time you read this, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have finished their mano-a-mano meeting in Helsinki, Finland. The press conferences have been held, the photos have been taken, the talking points have been disseminated and the Elvises have left the building.
Ask a Democrat what went down between the two and they’ll tell you Trump and Putin probably finalized plans to hand the keys to the White House to Comrade Vlad. Ask a Republican and they’ll tell you that Trump forced Putin to hand over the GRU hackers who launched attacks on the American elections of 2016. Ask me and I’ll tell you that not much happened.
It’s not that I doubt Trump’s ability to wheel and deal at near-light speed, as demonstrated by the diplomatic masterstroke he scored with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It’s not that I doubt that Putin is the diplomatic equivalent of a brick wall. It’s not even that I doubt the two men could come to some sort of agreement to cease the decades of hostility that have essentially defined geopolitics since the end of WWII.
It’s just that I know that — barring something extraordinary — whatever goes down in H-town is probably going to be buried under the news cycle by Friday. The grand globalist game of cat-and-mouse will continue unabated. But it’s worth noting that Trump and Putin aren’t cat-and-mouse. They — along with the rest of the politicians and their media flame-fanners — are cats. You and I are the mice.
In a recent interview with Fox News, the president noted “I could say: ‘Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Syria? Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Ukraine?’” While Trump’s hypothetical convo with the former KGB spook-turned-spooky dictator might seem quaint, it also represents a major step forward from Trump’s predecessor’s approach, which was to do nothing other than stage awkward “reset button” photo-ops, attempt to glare menacingly at Putin,and sit on his hands while Russia invaded the Ukraine like an aggressive form of cancer.
But just because Trump is a different style of player, don’t expect him to change the game. The president even acknowledged as much in the days prior to the Helsinki hoedown, warning against low expectations and promising not to push for “deliverables.” That’s elite-speak for the old “talks about the talks we’re gonna have about future talks.” As long as the superpowers can get out their aggressions — not to mention feed them — through proxy wars and chest-thumping, the status quo will remain. The United States and Russia will continue the ridiculous love-hate relationship which has kept the same faces on your TVs and, more importantly, your ballots.
Even if something noteworthy did transpire, the Left’s reaction will range somewhere between sneering disdain to proclaiming Trump guilty of treason. The right’s reaction will fall somewhere between mild disappointment to proclaiming Trump worthy of a Nobel Prize (to go with the one he should win for his North Korean deal making). And I will just hope there’s no shirtless posedown.
— Ben Crystal
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