July 11, 2018

Michael Kimmage, professor, history, published commentary in Foreign Affairs on the Trump-Putin summit. Vox published a Q-and-A based on that piece.


Historic U.S.-Russian meetings tend to occur outside of Washington and Moscow. Franklin Delano Roosevelt first encountered Joseph Stalin in Tehran. At the end of World War II, they met again at Yalta, a name that would thereafter signify Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Harry Truman’s one and only meeting with Stalin was in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. John F. Kennedy had a shaky meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Geneva, while Ronald Reagan had a memorable collision with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for a frenetically anticipated summit on July 16 in Helsinki. Their encounter—coming amid cascading revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, unnerving questions about Trump’s admiration for his Russian counterpart, and U.S.-Russian tensions around the globe—is certain to be a media spectacle. But as its location subtly implies, the real importance of the meeting may have little to do with the theatrics at the top. Unglamorous, largely unnoticed diplomatic processes could prove more consequential. ...

Continue reading in Foreign Affairs. 

Here’s a headline that hasn’t aged so well: “The Surprising Promise of the Trump-Putin Summit.”

In Foreign Affairs, a mere week ago, the historian and former diplomat Michael Kimmage made the case that the real action at the Helsinki meeting would quite likely occur behind the scenes, in unglamorous conversations among midlevel diplomats, who would begin much-needed exchanges about thorny issues including Ukraine and Syria.

Then President Trump stepped up to the mike. In a now-infamous press conference, he cast doubt on the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia hacked Democratic politicians and generally interfered in the 2016 election. (He subsequently backpedaled, unconvincingly.)

Trump “has destroyed his credibility on Russia even with people who might be Trump voters on other issues,” said Kimmage, who teaches at the Catholic University and who served, from 2014 to 2016, on the policy planning staff at the State Department, focusing on Russia and Ukraine. ...

Continue reading in Vox. 

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