Putin's next goal is the destruction of NATO

Kremlin and White House officials announced the exact date and venue of the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin – July 16 in the capital of Finland Helsinki. Currently, most American experts agree that the Russian leader will benefit the most from this meeting, writes Kseniya Kirillova.

In fact, it is obvious that even prior to these talks Trump has been openly implementing Putin's agenda in the United States. Recall how the US president, contrary to the findings of the entire intelligence community in the United States, to the very last insisted that Russia did not interfere in the presidential election of 2016. He didn’t support the last proposed package of sanctions against Russia, and at the recent meeting of the Group of Seven, according to various sources, called the Crimea Russian.  At the same venue, the US president called for Russia to return to the G7.  Prior to this, Trump, despite all the recommendations of his closest associates, congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election. It shocked the American establishment to such a degree that the former CIA director John Brennan condemned it in very tough terms.

On the other hand, in the current situation Trump doesn’t have many opportunities to do more for Putin than he already does. In particular, he cannot remove the sanctions approved at the legislative level and he cannot continue insisting that Russia did not interfere in the American elections when this interference was confirmed not only by the American intelligence community, but also by the special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The change in the US official position on Ukraine would also likely to run into opposition from the American establishment. True, Russian media claims that Trump can recognize the Crimea as Russian, but in fact such a recognition, even if done, would not have any legal force.

At the same time, Trump will need to show some "success" as a result of his meeting with Putin and he'll look for an opportunity to once again declare that there is no "collusion" with Moscow, for which he will need to demonstrate at least formal "concessions" from the Kremlin. However, Putin cannot make any real concessions on Ukraine, Syria or the situation in the US because for that he would have to admit what he now denies, namely: the presence of his military in the Donbass, the destructive nature of his Syrian operations and interference in the internal affairs of the United States.

However, the Russian leader has a "program package" at the ready in which he can declare his full willingness to cooperate with the United States, namely, in the fight against terrorism and in promoting compliance with North Korea's deal reached with the United States. By the way, these arguments have been used by the Kremlin for a long time as the main reason to force the United States to unilaterally improve relations with Moscow.

For example, in early December, during his speeches in Northern California, Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, repeatedly said that Russia is the largest nuclear power, and the United States cannot do without Russia's help if they want a "diplomatic settlement" of the North Korean crisis. By the way, publicist Andrei Piontkovsky later called this tactic "Kremlin's nuclear offshore", noting that Putin is trying to blackmail the American leadership using his influence on Kim Jong-un

Following Antonov, other Kremlin mouthpieces tried to convey the same idea, suggesting uncomplicated terms of the deal: cooperation with Russia in exchange for solving the problem of Pyongyang. Putin also adheres to the same tactics of blackmail with regard to international terrorism. However, now Trump will have an opportunity to present the eternal willingness of Moscow to cooperate in these matters as his major "achievement", and thereby justify his meeting with the Russian president.

Putin, in turn, will be able to demonstrate after the meeting at least the appearance of success, sending a clear signal that Washington intends to seek improved relations with Moscow and is embarking on a course to better relations between Russia and the US. Against this background, it will be increasingly difficult for individual European countries to adhere to a principled position towards Russia. In addition, do not forget that even if Trump is limited in promoting his openly pro-Russian agenda, he continues to do things that play into Putin's hands. For that, he does not need to meet with the Russian leader or even mention his name.

Trump Putin

As an example, in February of this year, Russian military analysts openly recognized that Donald Trump acts in their interests, battling the key American institutions and trying to destroy an independent law enforcement system while attempting to discredit Mueller's investigation. Moreover, they expressly stated their hope that as a result of his actions the days of the separation of powers, free press and independent intelligence community "will be numbered".

In early June, another Kremlin "analyst," Rostislav Ishchenkoadmitted that the US trade wars with European allies are leading to Europe's rapprochement with Russia. By the way, these statements were made even before Trump advised French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw from the EU. The US withdrawal from the WTO is also in Moscow's interests, moreover, as noted by American journalist Julia Davis, this issue was discussed on Russian television nine days before Trump officially announced his intentions in this regard.

Putin's next dream, after the destruction of the EU, is to undermine NATO unity, and Trump's actions in this regard are also in Moscow's interests. It is no coincidence that many articles in the Russian press proclaimed that "NATO is falling apart" and their authors note that "the Europeans are increasingly distrustful of their American colleagues against the backdrop of Donald Trump's scandalous actions." Unfortunately, this sentiment, even if it's meant as propaganda, is on a solid ground since the conflicts between Trump and NATO allies have long been playing out in public.

Also, the Russian media, namely the mouthpiece of the Kremlin's propaganda abroad, RT and, later, a major newspaper Vzglyad, using the German magazine Focus Online as their source, spread information that "the EU has decided to create a military alliance as a counterbalance to Trump" which is to be headed by France and Germany. Indeed, on June 25th the defense ministers of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and Estonia signed a declaration of the establishment of the European Defense Initiative – a coalition of European countries whose troops, if necessary, would train as a quick reaction force in order to conduct military operations around the world.

At the same time, Russian propagandists seem to be happy with the creation of such a structure. On the one hand, they understand that defense alliances will be weaker without the US, and on the other, they hope that the new organization, independent of America and deprived of the "legacy" of the Cold War, may well become closer to Moscow. Moreover, the Kremlin understands that the deeper the divide and even the confrontation between the US and Europe, the greater the likelihood of such rapprochement. So, it is likely that at the meeting in Helsinki, Putin will strongly encourage Trump to continue undermining the EU and NATO, as well as combating the anti-Russian opposition within the United States.

Read also: From “The Great Serbia” to “The Great Albania”: How Moscow Destabilizes the Balkans

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Kseniya Kirillova

Kseniya Kirillova

Kseniya Kirillova is a Russian journalist focussing on analysing Russian society, political processes in modern Russia, and the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict. She writes for Radio Liberty and other outlets and is an expert of the Ukrainian Centre for Army, Сonversion, and Disarmament studies.

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