While Donald Trump’s transition team statement is shorter than the one released by the cabinet of his future Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, they both adopted a tone that contrasted with the tension between Putin and President Barack Obama especially since the start of the Russian military intervention in Syria in September 2015.
Without mentioning friendship, both teams reminded the longevity of Russian-American diplomatic relations, 200 years according to the Trump team and 210 according to that of Putin. According to the Kremlin, it is “to encourage a return to pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation in the interests of both countries.” Besides that the Russian leadership has well grasped the fabric of the Trump foreign policy – pragmatism, mutual benefit – the latter has confirmed that he seeks “a strong and enduring relationship” with Russia. The substance of this first official contact between the two Putin and Trump administrations did not surprise Cyceon. Once again the devil is in the details.
First of all, rarely a release of a bilateral telephone conversation has benefited from such a quick translation and online publication on behalf of the Kremlin. Secondly, the increased length of the Kremlin communiqué compared to that of the Trump team can be seen as indicative of a real interest of President Putin in President-elect Trump, considering that the Kremlin usually publishes press releases that are shorter than its counterparts. Finally, only the phone call between Putin and Trump was the subject of a communiqué issued on the official transition website greatagain.gov.
No information has been made available on other conversations such as with Theresa May, François Hollande or Xi Jinping. This is indicative of a reciprocal interest of Trump in Putin. It is also the confirmation that Europe – and especially France – may well find itself again on the margins of a Russian-American duopoly.
Having cold interactions with Putin and being stuck in an awkward situation with Trump, French President Francois Hollande should have in these conditions a quite difficult time in defending France’s interests, especially considering those he keeps defending in Syria and more generally in the Middle East and which don’t correspond neither to those of the Russians nor even to those of the Americans any longer.