Better US-Russia Ties Good For World

By Nantoo Banerjee

It will be wrong to suggest that President Donald Trump was unusually soft and cooperative towards President Vladimir Putin during their first ever meeting at Hamburg, on the sidelines of G20. The meeting, originally scheduled for 35 to 40 minutes, lasted for well over two hours. No one outside the small three-member team on each side may have any clue of what exactly transpired in the meeting. Other than the two heads of states, two countries’ top diplomats — Rex Tillerson of the US and Sergei Lavrov of Russia — and two translators, none else was privy to the proceedings. However, what did not escape the attention of most G20 members is the length of the meeting and bonhomie between Trump and Putin. This may have upset some of them and provided opportunity to the media to interpret their own way. Going by the public versions of Tillerson and Lavrov, the two presidents discussed a whole lot of issues. Briefly, Putin said he and Trump discussed Ukraine, Syria, the fight against terrorism, and cybercrime and cyber security, giving no further details. It was reported that Trump told Putin: “it’s an honor to be with you.” And, Putin responded by saying, “I’m delighted to meet you.” Later, Tillerson told the media that “there was a very clear, positive chemistry between the two.”

However, this is not the first time that a meeting between the two heads of states has ended in a positive note. Trump may have spoken repeatedly of finding common ground with the Kremlin, but other previous US presidents too have echoed the sentiment of positive approach and better rapport to bring the two countries closer to reduce tension and improve cooperation. They include democrat Bill Clinton’s bonhomie with Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Barack Obama personally tried to improve relations with Putin, after Russia’s Georgia invasion in 2008. And, George W. Bush was reported to have famously looked into Putin’s eyes in 2001 and said he got “a sense of his soul.”

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