Beijing joins the ‘Trump-Putin Helsinki Summit is Yalta 2.0’ Debate

After the July 16 Helsinki Summit, Putin met with Xi Jinping personally at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on July 25-27 (photo from DailyHunt)

An AFP article published on July 1 is probably the first one comparing the Trump-Putin Helsinki summit to the 1945 Yalta Conference where President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin agreed on certain post-WWII arrangements among themselves personally.

Since then, a series of comments went on to argue that the Helsinki summit was ‘Yalta 2.0’, including the Atlantic Council on July 2, Crisis Group on July 11,
Washington Post on July 12, Reuters on July 13, The Atlantic and The New York Times on July 15, The Independent on July 16, The Spectator on July 17 …… Russia’s RT counter-argued on July 17 that the summit was “not Munich, Pearl Harbor or Yalta, just Helsinki”.

The one-to-one interlocution in private between Trump and Putin with simultaneous interpreter’s presence only is indeed a concern to international politics because they are both the strong-man type leaders of the two most powerful countries of the world, at least in terms of nuclear arsenals.

It is therefore not difficult to understand why the Democratic Party attempted to subpoena “the translator, who works for the State Department, to appear in closed session (at the House Intelligence Committee), saying Congress must ‘find out what was said’ during the two-hour meeting.”

This summit matters to China, too. “… After all, Russia is white, Christian and not a real economic competitor. The Chinese are non-white, non-Christian and a growing formidable economic power that is contesting American dominance in almost all economic domains ……. Trump is demonstrating and setting an example for Putin to follow. The argument goes along these lines: If Trump is willing to dump old allies, why shouldn’t Putin dump his old ally China for a new alliance with the United States?” Professor Atif Kubursi of McMaster University suggested in his Conversation article that the “Trump-Putin friendship could be all about oil and China”.

To obviate worry, Feng Shaolei, who is a regular contributor to The Valdai Club and Director of Centre for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, published an article after the July 25-27 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg to rebut the unease about a “go back to the Yalta Model” on the ground that the “rise of emerging countries, especially the reemerging attention to Westphalian sovereignty in the contemporary world, traditional democratic countries included, means that the simple ‘return to Yalta’ is unrealistic.”

Furthermore, China Daily tried to redirect the attention to the Middle East by saying on Aug 5 that the Helsinki summit “agreed on the need to resolve the situation in southern Syria … This is why the recent Trump-Putin summit was positive in terms of the actual results on the ground and in light of the U.S. desire to withdraw forces from Syria while maintaining its interests in the Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria, which explains the Kurdish growing desire to talk and agree with Damascus …”

Perhaps, the most straightforward proposition is The American Conservative’s “coming American-Russian Alliance against China” on July 16. Although it was refuted by Russia’s Strategic Culture Foundation on Aug 4, at least two areas have to be continuously monitored in future. First, if the Trump phenomenon, be it correctly or incorrectly named as populist, is not temporary in the United States but rather the beginning of an ethnocentric trend, how may this snowball all over the world to further provoke identity politics? Second, how harmonious may Russia and China co-shape and co-lead an illiberal Eurasia?

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

Categories: Politics & Law

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