US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for a week-long one-on-one summit this Monday in the Finnish capital city of Helsinki, only 391 km away from the historical Russian city of St. Petersburg. The summit was peculiarly important as it survived a volley of truculent criticism, calls for cancellation, and a whimsical painting of Trump as a “traitor and stooge” at home in the US from the clamorous Democrats, few chary Republicans and even some top ex-officials of the US Executive Branch such as ex-boss of the CIA John Brennan. The criticism of the summit by the opposition camp (and a notable Republican and Russia hawk from Arizona Sen. John McCain) was conspicuous, especially in the backdrop of the recently concluded investigation into the alleged Russian interference of the US elections 2016, by Robert Mueller and his team, that was appointed last year on May 17, by the Deputy Attorney General of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Rod J. Rosenstein. The Mueller team revealed in their intelligence assessment on Friday, only three days prior to the Putin-Trump summit, that twelve Russian military intelligence officers who worked for two units of the GRU (Man Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff of Armed Forces) were indicted for their involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton election campaign. Ironically and much to the chagrin of Trump’s critics, the intelligence assessment churned out by the Mueller team, fails to identify the real motives behind the alleged Russian interference and to assess whether or not it had had any empirical impact on the outcome of the election. Additionally, it fails to figure out as to whether the Americans on the Trump campaign actually knew they were in fact coordinating with Russian intelligence officers- giving further strength to Trump’s persistent line “there was zero collusion.” Keeping the above flamboyant failures and glitches from the Mueller assessment in view, one can’t help but call such a hastily and strategically-timed revelation of the indictments as ‘no more than politically motivated’. Its worth-noticing here that Robert Mueller earlier worked under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the FBI chief and that the indictments surfacing right before President Trump’s summit with Putin might not be merely a matter of pure coincidence. Thus there were marked qualms about the “timing” of the Mueller indictments and speculations ripe as to whether this could deal a devastating blow to Trump’s planned summit with Putin, ultimately playing into the hands of the Democrats, who are still struggling to come to terms with the reality of their historic defeat in the 2016 elections at the hands of a political novice in Trump. Despite the fate of the summit hung in the middle of such a stormy criticism, a resilient Trump, following his instincts in a spectacular display of his iconoclastic disposition (which some would call Trumplomacy), moved forward and met with Vladimir Putin in the Nordic capital city to ruminate over a host of pressing and immediate issues; the alleged election meddling included- and by now visibly prioritized. This was nonetheless a prudent move from Trump as shunning agreeing to a bilateral summit with the Russians could have achieved nothing but probably further chaos, destabilization and diplomatic failures in parts of the world especially Syria, the Korean peninsula, Iran and even Ukraine- mainly due to the non-cooperation between the two mightiest nations on earth. Besides, choosing to cancel the summit would also have portrayed the Donald a failed president at home. This would have only strengthened the Democrats’ favourite narrative of confrontation with Russia at the cost of literally everything, even international peace and security- only for the sake of ‘political correctness’. A third and less talked about issue which the Donald brought up with Putin is the languishing instability on the Korean peninsula and the future of the US-North Korea Talks An ardent advocate of a blossoming US-Russia relations right from his election campaign days, Trump was visibly perturbed and flustered, apparently by the recent revelations of the Mueller investigation, during a fleeting interaction with the media persons just before the opening of the summit with his Russian counterpart. On the other hand, Putin; a trained former KGB spy, who was well aware of the sensitivity and opposition revolving around the Mueller indictments, appeared strikingly composed and confident- emanating the vibes he was ready to face the situation gingerly yet audaciously come what may. During the joint presser after the lengthy, convoluted and cumbersome talks between the two sides, Putin tried to placate his counterpart and the hawks back in the Democrats’ camp by re-assuring them that the Cold War was a vestige of the past and that there was not even a single whiff of ideological confrontation between the two nations, which were now confronting a whole different set of global challenges. Apart from this, there were two more particular areas where Putin seemed to have granted or promised to grant concessions to his American counterpart- who seemed to cherish the moment. First, in his response to a question, Donald Trump bragged about being offered by Putin to have the Mueller team visit Moscow to jointly work on and coordinate with the meddling investigation. Trump hailed it as an ‘incredibly important offer’ and subtly hoped that this would also discourage his opponents back home from alleging ‘collusion’ between the two sides. Putin astutely referred to an existing treaty between the US and Russia from 1999 (called Mutual Legal Assistance) about mutual cooperation on criminal cases. This, he said, could act as a conduit to proceed with the Mueller investigation especially with regard to the interrogation of the alleged twelve Russians indicted for their surreptitious involvement in the 2016 elections in the US. Second, and perhaps most important, Trump indirectly hinted at the formation of a trilateral front in Syria with Israel’s interests in the war-torn country potentially safeguarded by both Washington and Moscow. Trump went on to add that working with Israel was a great thing and that both he and President Putin would very much like to see the safety of Israel. While Putin did not negate Trump’s Israel statement, he nonetheless chose to tread a balanced line as Russia is struggling with maintaining good working relations with both Israel and Iran that happen to be each other’s worst foes in the Middle East. Such assurances were nonetheless attributive of the spectacularly successful international diplomacy executed by Israel whose Prime Minister held a timely face-to-face meeting with Putin on Wednesday in the Kremlin, while telephoning Trump Saturday, well ahead of the planned summit, to present Israel’s position on Syria and Iran as unambiguously as possible. A third and less talked about issue which the Donald brought up with Putin is the languishing instability on the Korean peninsula and the future of the US-North Korea Talks. Trump claimed to have had extracted Russia’s support in helping with the ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea. A possible ‘Russia effect’ on the Talks can be palpated by taking into account Trump’s post-summit remark that there’s no timeframe for the North Korean denuclearisation process. Contrary to an allegedly partisan US mainstream media, and a half-cooked attempt by Robert Mueller and his men to sabotage the bilateral talks, the Putin-Trump summit was a huge success for both parties. The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said they were better than super. It is highly expected that the summit could prove to be the first step toward establishing a ‘New Reset’ in relations between the two powerful nations on earth — something which even Barack Obama couldn’t achieve. The writer holds an MPhil in International Relations and is an avid reader of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 24th 2018.