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The much anticipated first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and

Vladimir Putin has taken place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg,
Germany. The two presidents met for over two hours, with only translators and their
respective chief diplomatsSecretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrovjoining them. Despite its length, the meetings narrow agenda, which
Tillerson himself called transactional, also underscores the continuing dysfunction
in U.S.-Russia relations.

Both the State Department and the Kremlin confirmed that the two presidents
discussed cyber security, Ukraine and Syria. Specific deliverables were limited,
and focused primarily on improving the conditions for continuing dialogue,
especially around the shared priority of counterterrorism. This should at least
reassure Trumps critics that no grand bargain has been offered or agreed linking
Syria, Ukraine, or any other issue.

According to Tillerson, Trump pressed Putin on Russian interference in the U.S.


election and others domestic politics, presumably a reference to Germany, France,
the United Kingdom and other U.S. allies in Europe. Not surprisingly, almost
nothing on this subject has come out from the Russian sidejust Putins blanket
denial that any interference was the work of the Russian governmentalthough Putin
acknowledges that it poses a hindrance to the improvement of U.S.-Russia relations.

For this reason, Tillerson announced, Moscow and Washington will hold further
discussions on a framework for dealing with a wide array of cyber threats, from
interference in elections to terrorist attacks. If that discussion was Trumps nod
to the intelligence communitys conclusion that Russia hacked the 2016 election
and is continuing to launch cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, then it
was likely inadequate to reassure Trumps critics in Washington, DC. The political
impetus for the Russia investigation and pending sanctions legislation on Capitol
Hill will therefore continue.

The most concrete deliverable from the meeting seems to be a ceasefire to be


declared in Southwestern Syria, near the city of Daraa. While any cessation of
hostilities is positive, and could help save lives, this particular declaration is
significant mostly because the region is of interest to U.S. allies Jordan and
Israel, on which it borders. A ceasefire along the border could reduce the
likelihood of any future incidents between Israeli or Jordanian and Russian forces,
which would in turn put pressure on the White House to pick sides. So the ceasefire
is a win for Trump, if a small one. To the extent such a slight reduction in
hostilities enables the renewal of political dialogue, as Tillerson has suggested,
also represents progress. However, past ceasefires have been neither comprehensive
nor enduring, and it is hard to imagine this case will be any different.

For Trump, the summit with Putin was a chance to advance at least two of his
repeated campaign and post-election promises. Trump promised to improve the
relationship with Russia, and has cited the importance of U.S.-Russian cooperation
to stemming the spiraling crisis in Syria, and to the global fight against
terrorism more broadly. With the Syria ceasefire, he now has something modest but
concrete to show. Having praised Putin as a strong and effective leader during the
campaign, and endured withering attacks from his opponents for it, Trump can now
also claim victory as a tough negotiator who pressed Putin on various areas of
disagreement, from cyberattacks to Ukraineon which newly appointed Special Envoy
Kurt Volker is set to begin work next week in Kyiv.

For Putin, the primary focus was always his domestic audience. Although his
reelection in March next year to another six-year term is virtually guaranteed, the
real test is whether he can maintain the enthusiasm of his electoral base, and
produce a credible turnout as a validation of his continuing rule. This two-hour
meeting with Trump allowed Putin to showcase his own skills as a negotiator,
holding firm to Russias longstanding positions on hacking, Syria and Ukraine, but
also putting the final nail in the coffin of the previous U.S. administrations
policy of isolation. After sitting down as an equal with the leader of the
worlds most powerful country, while attending a gathering with over a dozen other
top leaders in the richest country in Europe, Putin can hardly be called isolated.

But for the same reason, a swift improvement in the largely dysfunctional U.S.-
Russia relationship should not be anticipated. For Putin, dysfunction is useful
since it reinforces the longstanding narrative that Washington aims to contain
Russia geopolitically and degrade it economically, with the ultimate objective of
regime change. This narrative yields one inescapable conclusion for the majority of
Russian voters: only Vladimir Putin is capable of guaranteeing their safety and
wellbeing.

Even if new dialogues are launched on hacking, Syria and Ukraine, the Kremlin is in
no position to make concessions, and the White House is under such pressure and
scrutiny from Congress that it is also unlikely to give an inch. The best-case
scenario, therefore, may be that increased dialogue helps to manage and prevent
unintended military escalation between Russia and the United States and its allies
in Syria or the Baltic region. Beyond that, the path to what the Kremlin has called
normalization with Washington is still obstructed by deeply conflicting
interests, domestic politics and widespread mutual distrust.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in


Washington, DC.

President Obama is huddling with his national-security heavyweights to talk Iraq.


With combat troops supposed to be out of the country by the end of the month,
officials are feeling the pressure. Present in the situation room: new DNI James
Clapper, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and
National Security adviser Jim Jones.

Meanwhile, former ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill is positive about the


prospects for Baghdads success, even though nearly half a year after elections, a
new government has still not been formed. Things may be moving slowly, but Hill
says: in the last couple of weeks, the pace has really quickened. And there's a
feeling that things may be heading in the right direction. Hill will take over as
dean of the University of Denvers School of International Studies come the
beginning of September. Hills successor is James Jeffrey.

September 1 is fast approaching yet theres no sign that the Israelis and
Palestinians will begin direct talks before then, a date the administration had
hoped face-to-face discussions would kick off. George Mitchell had a meeting today
with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reiterated that Israel would only enter
into talks without conditions. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants Israel to
completely cease settlement building before talks can begin. Some remain, at least
publicly, very cautiously optimistic. Israeli President Shimon Peres commented on
some positive advancements toward negotiations, adding that I hope it will
happen as early as possible and as soon as I hope.

In Afghanistan, General David Petraeus was pleased to see the Afghan Ministry of
Defense meet its training quota two months early. Kabul has trained 134,000
soldiers. U.S. troops will start to leave the country in July of next year.

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Regions:The set of the proposals Tillerson voiced contains both the potential
necessary to help drive the Syria conflict to a final stagewhich is a gradual
settlementand a message that is acceptable to the Russians, Suchkov said.

It is important for Moscow to have it on an equal basis, but also the Kremlin
would be watchful to make sure the way the proposals are framed doesnt put the
U.S. in an upper position.

While the Russians might be willing to work with the United States and vice-versa,
the practical realities of implementing some sort of agreement to conduct joint
operations could be very difficult.

The Russians really, really, really want joint mechanisms in principle, Olga
Oliker, senior adviser and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, told The National Interest.

In practice, working out rules is a bear. It also doesnt help that every time the
U.S. does something that annoys Russia, the Russians shut down what Syria
cooperation exists, because its the only thing theyve got.

Coordination between the United States and Russia will have to be a first step
towards joint operations should an agreement eventually emerge.

I think coordination is the necessary first step. If that can function


effectively, and not get shut down every few weeks, for a while, you can start
having conversations about joint action, Oliker said.

But I would imagine it would not be under anyones flag, but rather tightly
coordinated efforts with each firmly in command of their own forces.

Indeed, the Russian view of joint operations with the United States might mean that
Moscow simply has its zone of controlsimilar to what the Kremlin had proposed at
various stages during negotiations to set up peacekeeping forces in the Balkans.

I think the Russians real vision is of zones of influence/control, and


coordination between those, Oliker said.

Thats actually feasible, except for both sides limited control over their
proxies.

Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center,
highlighted the same problem.

I dont think the Russians have a problem operating in coordination or even


cooperation with U.S. forces, per se. The devil is in the details in Syria,
however, where Russias main operations are air support for the ground forces of
the Assad regime and Iranian backed militias and special forces, Rojansky told The
National Interest.
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West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad
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Samuel Rines

Can Russia and America Work Together in SyriThe set of the proposals Tillerson
voiced contains both the potential necessary to help drive the Syria conflict to a
final stagewhich is a gradual settlementand a message that is acceptable to the
Russians, Suchkov said.

It is important for Moscow to have it on an equal basis, but also the Kremlin
would be watchful to make sure the way the proposals are framed doesnt put the
U.S. in an upper position.

While the Russians might be willing to work with the United States and vice-versa,
the practical realities of implementing some sort of agreement to conduct joint
operations could be very difficult.

The Russians really, really, really want joint mechanisms in principle, Olga
Oliker, senior adviser and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, told The National Interest.

In practice, working out rules is a bear. It also doesnt help that every time the
U.S. does something that annoys Russia, the Russians shut down what Syria
cooperation exists, because its the only thing theyve got.

Coordination between the United States and Russia will have to be a first step
towards joint operations should an agreement eventually emerge.

I think coordination is the necessary first step. If that can function


effectively, and not get shut down every few weeks, for a while, you can start
having conversations about joint action, Oliker said.

But I would imagine it would not be under anyones flag, but rather tightly
coordinated efforts with each firmly in command of their own forces.

Indeed, the Russian view of joint operations with the United States might mean that
Moscow simply has its zone of controlsimilar to what the Kremlin had proposed at
various stages during negotiations to set up peacekeeping forces in the Balkans.

I think the Russians real vision is of zones of influence/control, and


coordination between those, Oliker said.

Thats actually feasible, except for both sides limited control over their
proxies.

Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center,
highlighted the same problem.

I dont think the Russians have a problem operating in coordination or even


cooperation with U.S. forces, per se. The devil is in the details in Syria,
however, where Russias main operations are air support for the ground forces of
the Assad regime and Iranian backed militias and special forces, Rojansky told The
National Interest.

1 2 next last
TweetShareShare
show full page

Topics:
SECURITY
Regions:
MIDDLE EAST
More stories by:
Dave Majumdar
A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during
clashes following a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the
West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad
Torokman?
Morgenthau's Realism and Today's Middle East

America can find a middle ground in the Middle East.


Stephen Pampinella
A magazine cut-out of a toilet roll made up of paper money, is taped to a screen of
a trading terminal at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, June 3, 2009.
REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Why Economic Bubbles Aren't Always Epic Disasters

These useful bubbles keep the United States competitive globally.


Samuel Rines

Can Russia and America Work Together in Syria?

Ultimately, it will be the Assad regime and the various other proxy forcesboth
U.S. and Russian alignedthat will determine if the two great powers can work
together.
Dave Majumdar
Latest Issue

TNI 150 cover


July-August 2017
It's Time to Break Up Syria
Table of Contents
SubscribeDigital Edition
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
email address
SUBSCRIBE
Most Popular

Iran's Missile Defenses

Slashing Command

Bolton's Beijing High Five for Clinton

Father Knows Best . . . ?

Prelude: What to Expect in This Space

The Wildest Dream: Bombing Iran

Heavyweight Huddle on Iraq

The set of the proposals Tillerson voiced contains both the potential necessary to
help drive the Syria conflict to a final stagewhich is a gradual settlementand a
message that is acceptable to the Russians, Suchkov said.

It is important for Moscow to have it on an equal basis, but also the Kremlin
would be watchful to make sure the way the proposals are framed doesnt put the
U.S. in an upper position.

While the Russians might be willing to work with the United States and vice-versa,
the practical realities of implementing some sort of agreement to conduct joint
operations could be very difficult.

The Russians really, really, really want joint mechanisms in principle, Olga
Oliker, senior adviser and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, told The National Interest.

In practice, working out rules is a bear. It also doesnt help that every time the
U.S. does something that annoys Russia, the Russians shut down what Syria
cooperation exists, because its the only thing theyve got.

Coordination between the United States and Russia will have to be a first step
towards joint operations should an agreement eventually emerge.

I think coordination is the necessary first step. If that can function


effectively, and not get shut down every few weeks, for a while, you can start
having conversations about joint action, Oliker said.

But I would imagine it would not be under anyones flag, but rather tightly
coordinated efforts with each firmly in command of their own forces.

Indeed, the Russian view of joint operations with the United States might mean that
Moscow simply has its zone of controlsimilar to what the Kremlin had proposed at
various stages during negotiations to set up peacekeeping forces in the Balkans.

I think the Russians real vision is of zones of influence/control, and


coordination between those, Oliker said.

Thats actually feasible, except for both sides limited control over their
proxies.

Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center,
highlighted the same problem.

I dont think the Russians have a problem operating in coordination or even


cooperation with U.S. forces, per se. The devil is in the details in Syria,
however, where Russias main operations are air support for the ground forces of
the Assad regime and Iranian backed militias and special forces, Rojansky told The
National Interest.

1 2 next last
TweetShareShare
show full page

Topics:
SECURITY
Regions:
MIDDLE EAST
More stories by:
Dave Majumdar
A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during
clashes following a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the
West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad
Torokman?
Morgenthau's Realism and Today's Middle East

America can find a middle ground in the Middle East.


Stephen Pampinella
A magazine cut-out of a toilet roll made up of paper money, is taped to a screen of
a trading terminal at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, June 3, 2009.
REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Why Economic Bubbles Aren't Always Epic Disasters

These useful bubbles keep the United States competitive globally.


Samuel Rines

Can Russia and America Work Together in Syria?

Ultimately, it will be the Assad regime and the various other proxy forcesboth
U.S. and Russian alignedthat will determine if the two great powers can work
together.
Dave Majumdar
Latest Issue

TNI 150 cover


July-August 2017
It's Time to Break Up Syria
Table of Contents
SubscribeDigital Edition
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

email address
SUBSCRIBE
Most Popular

Iran's Missile Defenses

Slashing Command

Bolton's Beijing High Five for Clinton


Father Knows Best . . . ?

Prelude: What to Expect in This Space

The Wildest Dream: Bombing Iran

Heavyweight Huddle on Iraq

a?

Ultimately, it will be the Assad regime and the various other proxy forcesboth
U.S. and Russian alignedthat will determine if the two great powers can work
together.
Dave Majumdar
Latest Issue

TNI 150 cover


July-August 2017
It's Time to Break Up Syria
Table of Contents
SubscribeDigital Edition
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

email address
SUBSCRIBE
Most Popular

Iran's Missile Defenses

Slashing Command

Bolton's Beijing High Five for Clinton

Father Knows Best . . . ?

Prelude: What to Expect in This Space

The Wildest Dream: Bombing Iran

Heavyweight Huddle on Iraq

More stories by:


Rebecca N. White
A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during
clashes following a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the
West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad
Torokman?
Morgenthau's Realism and Today's Middle East

America can find a middle ground in the Middle East.


Stephen Pampinella
A magazine cut-out of a toilet roll made up of paper money, is taped to a screen of
a trading terminal at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, June 3, 2009.
REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Why Economic

The set of the proposals Tillerson voiced contains both the potential necessary to
help drive the Syria conflict to a final stagewhich is a gradual settlementand a
message that is acceptable to the Russians, Suchkov said.

It is important for Moscow to have it on an equal basis, but also the Kremlin
would be watchful to make sure the way the proposals are framed doesnt put the
U.S. in an upper position.

While the Russians might be willing to work with the United States and vice-versa,
the practical realities of implementing some sort of agreement to conduct joint
operations could be very difficult.

The Russians really, really, really want joint mechanisms in principle, Olga
Oliker, senior adviser and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, told The National Interest.

In practice, working out rules is a bear. It also doesnt help that every time the
U.S. does something that annoys Russia, the Russians shut down what Syria
cooperation exists, because its the only thing theyve got.

Coordination between the United States and Russia will have to be a first step
towards joint operations should an agreement eventually emerge.

I think coordination is the necessary first step. If that can function


effectively, and not get shut down every few weeks, for a while, you can start
having conversations about joint action, Oliker said.

But I would imagine it would not be under anyones flag, but rather tightly
coordinated efforts with each firmly in command of their own forces.

Indeed, the Russian view of joint operations with the United States might mean that
Moscow simply has its zone of controlsimilar to what the Kremlin had proposed at
various stages during negotiations to set up peacekeeping forces in the Balkans.

I think the Russians real vision is of zones of influence/control, and


coordination between those, Oliker said.

Thats actually feasible, except for both sides limited control over their
proxies.

Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center,
highlighted the same problem.

I dont think the Russians have a problem operating in coordination or even


cooperation with U.S. forces, per se. The devil is in the details in Syria,
however, where Russias main operations are air support for the ground forces of
the Assad regime and Iranian backed militias and special forces, Rojansky told The
National Interest.

1 2 next last
TweetShareShare
show full page

Topics:
SECURITY
Regions:
MIDDLE EAST
More stories by:
Dave Majumdar
A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during
clashes following a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the
West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad
Torokman?
Morgenthau's Realism and Today's Middle East

America can find a middle ground in the Middle East.


Stephen Pampinella
A magazine cut-out of a toilet roll made up of paper money, is taped to a screen of
a trading terminal at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, June 3, 2009.
REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Why Economic Bubbles Aren't Always Epic Disasters

These useful bubbles keep the United States competitive globally.


Samuel Rines

Can Russia and America Work Together in Syria?

Ultimately, it will be the Assad regime and the various other proxy forcesboth
U.S. and Russian alignedthat will determine if the two great powers can work
together.
Dave Majumdar
Latest Issue

TNI 150 cover


July-August 2017
It's Time to Break Up Syria
Table of Contents
SubscribeDigital Edition
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

email address
SUBSCRIBE
Most Popular

Iran's Missile Defenses

Slashing Command

Bolton's Beijing High Five for Clinton

Father Knows Best . . . ?

Prelude: What to Expect in This Space

The Wildest Dream: Bombing Iran

Heavyweight Huddle on Iraq

"Another question Israeli planners struggle with: how will they know if their
attacks have actually destroyed a significant number of centrifuges and other hard-
to-replace parts of the clandestine Iranian program? Two strategists told me that
Israel will have to dispatch commandos to finish the job, if necessary, and bring
back proof of the destruction. The commandoswho, according to intelligence
sources, may be launched from the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Iraq
would be facing a treacherous challenge, but one military planner I spoke with said
the army would have no choice but to send them."

Yikes!

(c) CorbisThis comes from a sprawling, informative, must-read piece by Jeffrey


Goldberg that appears in the Atlantic. Goldberg says he's been on the trail for
seven years now. He provides a conspectus of the reasons that Israel might try to
go solo in taking out Iran's nuclear capabilities. He deftly discusses the Israeli
mindset (Auschwitz) and interviews Obama administration officials who emphasize
that nothing is off the table. (Why would they say otherwise?)

The most intriguing part of Goldberg's article comes in his discussion of the
influence of Ben-Zion Netanyahu, a scholar of the Spanish inquisition, upon his
son. Goldberg describes the 100th birthday party for the old man who, we are told,
announces:

"Our party this evening compels me to speak of recent comments made about the
continued existence of the nation of Israel and the new threats by its enemies
depicting its upcoming destruction, Ben-Zion began. "From the Iranian side, we
hear pledges that soonin a matter of days, eventhe Zionist movement will be put
to an end and there will be no more Zionists in the world. One is supposed to
conclude from this that the Jews of the Land of Israel will be annihilated, while
the Jews of America, whose leaders refuse to pressure Iran, are being told in a
hinted fashion that the annihilation of the Jews will not include them."
This is rather sinister stuff. Iran would have no compunctions about wiping out the
Jewish state, if it could do so without endangering itself, which it cannot. But
Netanyahu's lucubrations appear to suggest, if I'm not mistaken, that America's
Jews are, at best, cowards, at worst, quislings, not applying sufficient pressure
upon its leaders to attack Iran because they can obtain a dispensation from the
Iranian threat. Meanwhile,Israel, alone, friendless, reliant upon itself, must act,
whether or not the rest of the world objects.

It's always a mistake to suppose that leaders are driven solely by rational
calculations. Goldberg is right to highlight the influence of Netanyahu pere upon
Netanyahu fils. Obviously, Obama does not suffer from similar complexes. For Obama,
trying to extricate himself from Iraq, mired in Afghanistan, and intent on trimming
the defense budget, it might seem like a no-brainer to avoid a further conflict.
But maybe not. Goldberg reveals that George W. Bush dismissed the neoconservatives
as the "bomber boys." But Obama is really the only president who could sanction an
attack on Iran. Even if he doesn't, Israel might try anyway. Goldberg figures that
Israel could buy three to five years if it carried off successful strike.

A big if. Given the recent flotilla fiasco, it might seem that a little
circumspection might be in order. Sending in commandos to Iran might well be a
suicide mission. And the reasons for not acting have been outlined ad nauseam,
prime among them the danger of shoring up rather than undermining the nasty rule of
the mullahs in Tehran. Which is why the Obama administration appears to be aiming
for a new containment strategy of Iran, even as Hillary Clinton talks tough.