German account: “A Putin-understander [Ein Putinversteher] in the White House”

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February 7. 2017, – Fort Russ News –

Der Tagesspiegel Analysis by Claudia von Salzen, translated by Tom Winter. Note: there are various accounts based on this in the Russian press. Fort Russ (again) finds the original

In the election campaign Donald Trump left no doubt that he admires Russian President Vladimir Putin for his strength. While the new US President himself is perturbing long-time allies like Australia through his utterances, from Trump there has not been one word of criticism of Putin’s Russia. 

In an interview broadcast on Sunday on Fox News, Trump confirmed that he respected Putin. On the objection of the interviewer that Putin was a “killer,” the US President replied: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country is so innocent? “

In doing so, he equated the actions of the Russian President with the US to counter criticism of Putin, a method which would otherwise be used in Russian state television.

 The station RT (formerly Russia Today) reported immediately about Trump’s comparison. On the other hand, oppositionists such as the ex-chess world champion, Garry Kasparov, living in exile in New York, were horrified. This was the sort of “false moral equivalence used by Soviet propaganda as well as dictators today,” Kasparov wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s recent statements are adding to fears, he says, despite the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, that there could be a rapprochement between the US and Russia. [! — tr] Statements by the new UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, had previously been judged by some political observers as the new US administration holding the line on Russian policy. Haley sharply condemned the “aggressive” action of Russia in the Eastern Ukraine on Thursday in the UN Security Council. Also, neither Secretary of State Rex Tillerson nor Defense Minister James Mattis expressed anything about a change of course vis-a-vis Russia in hearings before the US Congress. 

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On the other hand, the Kremlin praised the first telephone conversation between Trump and Putin. Both had agreed on a “partnership-based cooperation” in many areas, including the fight against terrorism, the Middle East, the Iranian Atom program, and the Ukraine conflict. 

While the Kremlin published a long statement about the conversation, the White House put out very little about its content. Nevertheless, it became clear that Trump is seeking a new start in relation to Russia: “The positive telephone call was a significant step forward in improving relations between the US and Russia, which need repairing.”

“Putin – Trump tandem”

It’s not known if a relaxation of the US sanctions imposed against Moscow’s for intervention in the Ukraine was part of the conversation. Neither side had a comment on this. The Russian newspaper “Kommersant” nevertheless titled their report on the presidential phone call: “The final hour for the sanctions has rung.” Adding “The tandem of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will become a new factor in world politics.” State-run Russian media have never reported on an American president as positively as they have about Trump.

In the face of this new closeness, how Trump relates to the Ukraine conflict is being closely watched in several European capitals. Since 2014 separatists, who are directly supported by Russia with heavy weapons, fighters and money, are fighting against the Ukrainian army in the eastern Ukraine. On Saturday Trump first spoke with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Trump had a “very good telephone call” with Poroshenko, also about the “long-running conflict with Russia,” said a statement from the White House. “We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border,” said President Trump.

Trump does not comment on fighting in Ukraine

The heavy fighting that had begun a week ago in Donbass is not mentioned in the US President’s statement. In the region between the cities of Donetsk and Avdeevka, the most severe fighting in the last two years is on. Thousands of inhabitants of Avdeevka were without electricity, water and heating, after the Ukrainian-controlled city was hit by heavy artillery. In the meantime the fighting has decreased according to data from international observers.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko, after the talks with Trump, explained that both heads of state expressed their concern about the sudden surge in tensions and the humanitarian situation, especially in Avdeevka, and called for an immediate ceasefire. However, such a demand is lacking in the White House’s statement.

It is also unclear why Trump wants to restore peace “along the border” – the border between Ukraine and Russia is by no means contested, the actual front is much farther west. The so-called contact line, which separates Ukrainian troops from separatists and Russians, could only be called a border if the self-declared “People’s Republics” were recognized internationally: Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. However, under international law the territories belong to Ukraine. Unlike the American UN ambassador, Trump avoids criticizing Russia for intervention in Ukraine.

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