With a ceasefire in southwestern Syria in the
works, meeting proves diplomacy beats
By Pepe Escobar
- From the start, the “positive chemistry” in
the Mother of All Sit-Downs was a given. The
format – with only the four principals, Vladimir
Putin, Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and
two translators – prevented any leaks. What was
originally scheduled for 35 minutes went on for
2 hours and 16 minutes, and not even an
impromptu appearance by First Lady Melania Trump
– they were late for the Elbphilharmonie pomp
and circumstance – managed to stop the flow.
needed to deliver. They needed headlines. They
got plenty. Including a possible first step at
real cooperation; a ceasefire deal in
southwestern Syria. Yet the real headline is
that diplomacy beats demonization.
from the toxic, overwhelmingly Russophobic
Beltway point of view, that dystopia
masquerading as a summit – the actual G-20 – was
a mere backdrop; the only thing that mattered in
this parallel G-2 was confirmation of an
obsessive narrative; Russian interfered in the
City gave us slightly conflicting views.
Tillerson admitted “intractable” differences but
stressed Trump was “rightly focused on how do we
move forward”, while an uncharacteristically
irritable Lavrov said Trump had accepted Putin’s
denial, adding what is, in fact, the real
clincher; Putin wants proof and evidence of
That won’t happen. The “Russian hacking” tsunami
ebbs and flows,
always following the same pattern;
accusations by some proverbial “anonymous
official” or “expert”, usually debunked. If the
acronym jungle of US intel had concrete,
definitive evidence, that would have been
splashed on every single front page long ago.
real test for a possible reset will be the
US-Russia ceasefire in southwestern Syria.
Tillerson and Lavrov had been discussing it for
weeks now. And it’s a Russian idea.
Essentially, that would
lead towards American/Jordanian peacekeeping
forces near the Golan;
Damascus allowing Iranian and Russian
peacekeeping forces around the capital; Turkey
ensconced between Jarablus and Al-Bab in the
north with Russians around them; and the
Americans in the northeast all the way to Raqqa
alongside the Kurdish YPG.
nutshell; a regional balance of power which,
assuming it holds, might slowly lead towards a
final all-Syria settlement.
– and Israel – are not warring parties in Syria,
and yet the deal directly concerns them. It’s
not clear whether US forces will have to be back
to Jordan. It’s not clear how the ceasefire will
complement the Astana negotiation – the actual
top frontline decider – involving Russia, Iran
and Turkey. It’s not clear whether Daesh will be
eradicated for good. It’s not clear whether the
Pentagon will stop sporadically attacking the
Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
The real big story
then, there’s the big story of the G-20 in
Hamburg, which actually started three days
earlier in Moscow, in a full-fledged official
summit between Putin and Chinese President Xi
Putin once again pledged to
support the New Silk Roads,
or One Belt, One Road initiative (Obor), “by all
means”, which includes its interpenetration with
the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU).
Russian Direct Investment Fund and the China
Development Bank established a joint $10 billion
and China’s CNPC signed a key agreement for the
starting date of gas deliveries via the Power of
Siberia pipeline; December 20, 2019, according
to Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller. And that will be
followed by the construction of Power of
kept discussing a military cooperation roadmap.
a closed Kremlin meeting the night before their
official summit, in which they clinched yet
another proverbial raft of deals worth billions
of dollars, Putin and Xi developed a common
North Korea strategy; “dialogue and
negotiation”, coupled with firm opposition to
the THAAD missile system being installed in
an interview to TASS, had already expounded on
US missile defense – an absolute top priority
for the Kremlin – “disrupting the strategic
balance in the region”.
was Putin and Xi’s third meeting in 2017 alone.
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
summit in Astana, Putin had already hinted that
this one, in Moscow, would be “a major event in
giveaway: that’s where they not only deepened
their joint strategy for Eurasia integration but
also coordinated their common approach to Trump
at the G-20. This is what a strategic
partnership is all about.
How to restart a reset
Considering the toxicity levels in the Beltway,
Putin and Lavrov went to the G-20 harboring no
expectations that a package deal could be
achieved between Russia and the US.
knew this would be a strictly political meeting
– and not economic; an easing of sanctions was
out of the cards.
They also knew there’s not much Trump could
offer to the Russian economy. This exhaustive
report sets the
under sanctions, Russia should expect a
“handsome recovery”, with an expected growth of
3% to 4% in 2017. There has been an
“extraordinary decrease in the share of oil &
gas revenue in Russia’s GDP.” Russia has “the
lowest level of imports (as a share of the GDP)
of all major countries.” And the clincher;
Russia “must focus on China, the East, and the
rest of the world.”
already happening. At the BRICS meeting on the
sidelines of the G-20, they called for a more
open global economy and for a “rules-based,
transparent, non-discriminatory, open and
inclusive multilateral trading system.”
and Lavrov faced Trump and Tillerson knowing
full well that
political factions in the US won’t waiver in
their mission to keep the tension with “peer
competitors” Russia and China at a very
same time, they knew Trump and Tillerson really
aim for a reset – incipient as it may be at the
is an ultra-complex case where the sphere of
influence is mostly Iranian but the hard, cold
facts on the ground and in the skies are mostly
Russian. With this ceasefire deal, it’s as if
Putin and Lavrov are inviting a losing
Washington to be part of a solution that
satisfies – sort of – all parties, including
Israel and Turkey.
did not make any substantial concessions in
Hamburg, at least according to what both
Tillerson and Lavrov volunteered to disclose.
The Beltway is barking that Trump gave Putin a
win. As usual, they’re wrong; Putin and Trump
stage-managed a win-win.
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