Russia Monitor

Putin's Helsinki - Tactical Succes, Strategic Failure

Written on 09/01/2018




  • The Helsinki summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin did not bring any breakthrough in relations between the two countries as the diplomatic crisis has only deepened since that time. As a result, no sanctions against Russia may be lifted nor restricted while it is not certain whether any further restrictions will be introduced in the near future. Trump’s fawning behaviour bolstered Russia’s critics in the USA and made it possible to undertake other anti-Russian steps, including more punitive measures. Following the Helsinki summit, the U.S.-led decisive policy encouraged Russian opponents of better relations with the United States to continue their hitherto practices. At the same time, the U.S. authorities have seemingly strengthened Moscow’s “party of the war”.
  • Putin has taken advantage of his exhaustive face-to-face conversation with Trump as well as following suggestions, some vague hints, not to forget little fortunate statements by his American counterpart at a press conference; thanks to all that, the Russian President could develop an information offensive only a few days after the summit. So the Russians were able to play with the American consternation, for instance by imposing their own interpretation on the alleged arrangements – even if each subsequent weeks brought some information about the lack of such compromise. Nonetheless, the Helsinki summit has shown that Russia was apt to carry out information warfare operations.
  • Apart from “moral satisfaction” – as it was referred to as by some commentators – Putin did not gain much during the meeting in the Finnish capital. In addition, not only did the summit make Trump weaker but it also strengthened anti-Russian milieu in the United States. Such state of affairs is evidenced by a blatant increase in the Congress’ pressure on the U.S. President to take necessary steps against Russia such as implementing the CAATSA and the Magnitsky Act, hitting Russia’s banking system and recognition it as a “state sponsor of terrorism”.
  • And Putin is already aware that Trump will neither lift the sanctions nor will he make any concessions on some key issues for his country. Thus, he ceases to be useful anymore. It would seem that in this case Russia will break with his policy of “good Trump” and “bad Congress”; however, the Kremlin has no intention of doing so. The American leader can potentially be used in a completely different way, for example as a conflict-maker, who will be constantly destabilizing the situation in the country.