From the Experts: FSI on the Helsinki Summit 2018


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With so much circulating about the Helsinki summit on social media and in the press, we asked one of our resident Russian experts and historians at CISAC, Prof DAVID HOLLOWAY, for his 60 second quick take-aways on the Trump-Putin meeting of July 16th.

Quick-Take: Helsinki 2018 with David Holloway 


Q:What specific results/agreements have come out of the meeting?


A: That’s not clear.  We have only the press conference to go on.  Putin mentioned a number of areas in which working groups might be reestablished.  Trump mentioned that the NSC would follow up with the Russians on issues addressed in the meeting.  Those included arms control, the humanitarian in Syria, and counterterrorism.  Cooperation in those areas could be beneficial. 


Q: Trump mentioned that the meeting marked a “fundamental change” in US-Russian relations.  Is that true?


A: First, we don’t know what specific agreements – if any – have been concluded.  A broader dialogue between the two governments appears to be likely, and there are some areas in which agreement could be reached quickly – extension of New START, for example.  But reconstituting working groups is no guarantee that agreements can be reached.


Second, the tone of the press conference was extraordinary.  Trump’s earlier tweet that the US was to blame for the worsening of US-Russian relations set the tone.  Putin showed much greater command of the issues than Trump, which was to be expected.  Trump seemed obsessed by US domestic politics and his own political position, which was not a surprise.  Trump’s unwillingness to back his own intelligence agencies on the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election was perhaps predictable, but nonetheless remarkable in the context of a meeting with Putin.


Third, taken together with the NATO summit last week, the meeting with Putin may come to look like a turning-point in US foreign policy, overturning – or at least greatly weakening – a long-standing alliance and creating dangerous uncertainty in European security relations.


About David Holloway:

DAVID HOLLOWAY is the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History, a professor of political science, and an FSI senior fellow. 

His research focuses on the international history of nuclear weapons, on science and technology in the Soviet Union, and on the relationship between international history and international relations theory.


Want to hear more from our experts?

FSI Director, MICHAEL MCFAUL, has been reporting live on the Trump-Putin summit from Helsinki. For access to his interviews with NBC News and MSNBC in the lead up to and the aftermath of the July 16th meeting, click here. To hear his post-Summit interview with NPR News, click here


In her latest article for The Atlantic , 'The Self-Inflicted Demise of American Power', CISAC co-Director AMY ZEGART argues that Trump’s foreign-policy doctrine can be summed up as “Make America Weak Again.” For the full article click here.


FSI's Deputy Director, KATHRYN STONER weighs in on the Helsinki summit and how disheartening it is to our own president reject the findings of our own Justice Department and Intelligence Agencies to defend Putin and blame everything on Hillary Clinton and her email servers. Listen to the episode of Background Briefing with Ian Masters click here


Discover More:

Check out the Russia Research page on our website for all articles and interviews about US-Russian relations with FSI faculty and visiting scholars.