Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to US President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017. Photo: Carlos Barria/ Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to US President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017. Photo: Carlos Barria/ Reuters

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump finally met on Friday, shaking hands and talking for two hours on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

According to the media, among the hottest topics discussed by the presidents of Russia and the US were cybersecurity and the problems in Ukraine and Syria. Naturally, Putin and Trump could not avoid discussing terrorism, an increasingly alarming problem as it spreads throughout the world.

However, apart from an agreement on a ceasefire in southwestern Syria, it appears that no progress was made in the talks. On fighting terrorism, they agreed that this is an area that a bilateral working group should focus on. So there will be yet another consulting body, but no actual attempt to unite the international community into a single and coordinated force is foreseen.

Russia keeps on calling for a global counterterrorism coalition, but Trump seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

A significant illustration of this was seen at the Nato summit held in May in Brussels, where Trump voiced his unequivocal support for the strengthening of the Atlantic alliance, and, in particular, demanded an increase in the organization’s counterterrorism capability.

As former Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen put it in an interview with Sky News, “There is a strange resistance within the alliance to actually engage in counterterrorism, and now the US has got a president who is in favor of strengthened Nato activity in that area, so I think this is an excellent opportunity to promote counterterrorism within Nato.”

It did not take long to see the results. After the Nato summit, it was agreed that a new terrorism intelligence unit would be established at the alliance’s headquarters. It will facilitate the sharing of intelligence, including information about foreign fighters. In addition, Nato will appoint a coordinator to oversee the alliance’s activities in the counterterrorism field.

Now, let’s look at what this suggests. By coming out in favor of strengthening Nato, and particularly increasing its role in the fight against terrorism, Trump has provoked further political polarization on the international stage, explicitly sidelining such major actors as Russia and China. This by no means brings nearer the creation of a global counterterrorism front; on the contrary, it deepens tensions between the very states that are meant to cooperate.

Evidently, some were misled by Trump’s early pledges during his election campaign in 2016. A year ago, he promised to consider an alliance with Russia against ISIS, saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS?” However, with every passing day, it becomes increasingly clear that no genuine global alliance is looming on the horizon.

In a speech in Warsaw on the eve of the G20 summit, the US president sent quite a clear message. “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and the defense of civilization itself,” Trump stated.

Trump is not really striving for an alliance with Russia to combat terrorism

These harsh words sound pretty much like a challenge, ultimatum or attempt to apply pressure, but in no way like an invitation to a dialogue and interaction. Actually, this suggests that Trump is not really striving for an alliance with Russia to combat terrorism.

Double standards, once again

The United States should at least be a bit more honest about the purity of its intent to combat terrorism. On the second day of their talks, the G20 leaders released a joint communiqué on countering terrorism, which focused particularly on clamping down on the financing of terrorist activity. Among other things, the document declares that “there should be no ‘safe spaces’ for terrorist financing anywhere in the world.” Well, well, there are questions that call for answers.…

In early June, Trump accused Qatar of funding terrorism at a “very high level,” giving other Gulf states free rein to ostracize the country. Many raised questions then about the reasons Qatar was singled out, as it was not the only country with a poor record on that issue.

Recently, London-based think-tank the Henry Jackson Society published a report titled “Foreign-Funded Islamist Extremism in the UK,” which reveals the key role of Saudi Arabia in promoting radical Islam in the United Kingdom’s mosques and religious schools. Moreover, the report states that such influence has been exerted by Saudi Arabia worldwide.

“Since the 1960s, Saudi Arabia has been committed to a policy of promoting the kingdom’s hardline interpretation of Wahhabi Islam globally. Over the past 30 years, Saudi Arabia has spent at least £67 billion [US$86 billion] on this endeavor. The most profound impact has been in other parts of the Islamic world, where funding from Gulf states has been used to promote a more extreme interpretation of Islam, often overriding local practices and traditions that are more moderate,” the document reads.

Have the US intelligence agencies been unaware of such behavior by its Arab ally? That is highly doubtful. Therefore, why is the American president ostracizing one nation while making arms deals and encouraging another, with all other conditions being equal? At any rate, it does not seem to be the right way to unite the world in the face of a common threat.

Tatiana Kanunnikova

Russian journalist Tatiana Kanunnikova is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs.