Another topic from the private summit between Vladimir Putin and President Trump has been revealed. President Putin, speaking to a group of Russian diplomats, reportedly
Vladimir Putin told Russian diplomats that he made a proposal to Donald Trump at their summit this week to hold a referendum to help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but agreed not to disclose the plan publicly so the U.S. president could consider it, according to two people who attended Putin’s closed-door speech on Thursday.
A referendum has already been held in both the Donetsk and Lushank areas of Ukraine, in 2014. The results in both locations was a strong desire to become part of Russia. The problem is that both locations are currently under militaristic control of pro-Russian separatist forces. Even without the always sensitive issue of areas of a country breaking away from the home nation, votes that are taken under threat of violence are generally considered highly suspect. (BBC)
In 2015 an EU-brokered truce was arranged and agreed upon by Russia. (dw.com) After a flareup due to an attempt to heighten economic ties with the EU, another ceasefire was called. (europeanforum.net)
Agreeing to validate future referendums would be a major concession to Russian interests and countermand the official position of the Ukranian government.
Putin further demonstrated his desire to exert control over the area with a threat to NATO countries. From Reuters:
Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said on Thursday there was a need to restore trust in Europe and spoke out against what he said was NATO’s attempts to deploy new bases and military infrastructure near Russia’s borders.
“Our colleagues, who are trying to aggravate the situation, seeking to include, among others, Ukraine and Georgia in the orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy.”
President Trump’s statements about being uncertain whether the US should defend smaller NATO nations like Montenegro or Albania (Axios) and his demonstrated antipathy toward NATO in general seem to have emboldened Putin. If Trump did, in fact, agree to consider validating a Ukranian referendum, it signals a greater capitulation than even the refusal to condemn Putin for election interference. It signals a deep and intentional weakness in American foreign policy that makes President Obama’s encouragement of the Muslim Brotherhood seem strong by comparison.