So What Did Trump And Putin Agree To That We Don’t Know About?

We still don't know what President Trump and Vladimir Putin talked about or agreed to during their two-hour meeting on Monday.

As I noted yesterday, one of the enduring issues still left unresolved in the wake of President Trump’s disastrous summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is what, if anything, may have been discussed between the two men or agreed to that we are, as of yet, unaware of. This has led some members of the House and Senate on the Democratic side to demand that they be given access to the translator who was the sole person in the room other than Trump, Putin, and Putin’s translator. While that move strikes me as unwise and potentially barred by Executive Privilege, it certainly goes without saying that we need to know what may have been agreed to, and that was made even more apparent today when the Russian Ambassador to the United States hinted at unspecified agreements that the two men had reached during their two-hour meeting earlier this week:

Russia’s ambassador to the United States on Wednesday said President Trump made “important verbal agreements” with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their private conversation in Helsinki on Monday.

Russian envoy Anatoly Antonov listed cooperation in Syria and arms control as two issues the world leaders had agreed on, according to The Washington Post.

But the Post reported that the highest-level Trump administration officials still do not know what Trump promised Putin during their one-on-one meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday both listed general topics that the two discussed, but neither provided much detail.

Nauert said the State Department is assessing “three takeaways,” which include a working group of American and Russian business leaders, an expert council with thought leaders from both countries, and follow-up meetings with Russian national security council staff.

“These are certainly all modest proposals,” Nauert said. “The president had said going into this that we wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems in one meeting.”

Sanders was vague as well, telling reporters during Wednesday’s press briefing that Trump and Putin discussed “Syrian ­humanitarian aid, Iran’s nuclear ambition, Israeli security, North Korean denuclearization, Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea, reducing Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals, and of course your favorite topic, Russia’s interference in our elections.”

The Post reported that officials are scrambling to figure out what Trump agreed to.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marina Zakharova said on Wednesday that the Kremlin is already working to implement agreements from the summit, according to the Post.

“A lot of what the president of the Russian Federation talked about is now being worked through,” she said, according to the Post. ”Relevant instructions are being carried out, and diplomats are beginning to work on the outcomes.”

Putin during Monday’s controversial press conference said the conflict in Syria could present a starting point for bilateral agreements. He also claimed he and Trump agreed on securing Israel’s border with Syria, eliciting praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Antonov on Wednesday said Moscow is “a hostage to the domestic political battle” in the U.S.

“When I return from Moscow, I will have the very clear-cut and lucid determination to go knock on every door at the State Department and the National Security Council to understand what we can do together in order to realize the agreements, the ideas, that the two presidents supported,” Antonov said.

“Even in talking with you now, I am afraid to say something positive about the American president,” he said, “because when American journalists or policymakers read my interview, they’ll say Russia is again meddling and helping Donald Trump.”

The Washington Post has more:

Two days after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.

“Important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New START and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.

But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.

At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. The uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.

“When we are able to provide more details, we will, but rest assured, the U.S. Department of Defense remains laser focused on the defense of our nation,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

(…)

One idea under consideration, Antonov said, was a joint U.S.-Russian fight against terrorism in Syria. “It seemed to me, my impression was that the U.S. side listened . . . with interest,” he said. Russia has, like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defined all opponents of the Syrian government as “terrorists” and made similar proposals throughout the seven-year Syrian civil war.

The leaders also discussed an earlier agreement Russia had reached with Israel — based on a 1974 United Nations agreement — to keep all Iranian and proxy forces fighting on behalf of ­Assad’s military at least 50 miles from Syria’s border with the ­Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and not to contest Israeli strikes against perceived threats from Iranian proxies inside Syria.

At the Russian Foreign Ministry, spokeswoman Marina Zakharova said implementation of summit agreements had already begun. “A lot of what the president of the Russian Federation talked about is now being worked through,” she said. “Relevant instructions are being carried out, and diplomats are beginning to work on the outcomes.”

The President also hinted at certain “agreements” in a series of morning Tweets, but did not provide any details about those agreements:

Taking both the statements of the Russian Ambassador and the President into account, there are obviously numerous questions left hanging that need to be answered as soon as possible. This includes not only what if anything, the two men may have agreed to but also what else was discussed and what that might mean for the future. The comments from the Ambassador and the President both indicate that the subjects that were touched upon were wide-ranging and touched on many areas that implicate American national interests on a wide variety of levels. For example, the United States and Russia are both currently involved in the civil war in Syria in varying and often conflicting ways. On at least one occasion over the past year, this has resulted in American and Russian troops being involved in direct combat with each other for the first time since the end of the Cold War more than twenty years ago. Given that, it’s important to know what the two Presidents may have discussed and agreed to with regard to the future of Syria. Similarly, the Russians have taken an increasingly active role with respect to the situation on the Korean Peninsula at the same time that the United States continues to attempt to negotiate with the Kim regime. This is just the beginning of the list, of course, and lord only knows what else the two Presidents could have discussed alone, and what the President may have foolishly agreed to.

News like this, of course, precisely why the kind of extended, one-on-one meetings between world leaders, especially leaders of adversarial nations such as the United States and Russia. Normally, those types of meetings take place after lower-level aides have met, often for months if not longer, and hammered out both an agenda and the terms of whatever will be agreed to at the summit have already been largely ironed out. At the actual summit meeting, the leaders would be accompanied by aides, including someone whose sole responsibility is to take notes regarding what is discussed, what may end up being the topic of future discussions, and what, if anything, was actually agreed to. This is how summit meetings were done during the Cold War, and it’s how nearly every normal nation on the planet handles these types of meetings. Unfortunately, we are no longer a normal nation led by a normal President, we are a chaos nation led by a man who thrives on chaos, uncertainty, and the inflation of his own pathetic ego. Given that, who knows what he might have agreed to?

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Well, apparently Putin is going to visit the US this fall, so that could be one thing they agreed on. Maybe they’re going to watch the mid-terms together from the Oval Office. Bet you anything Trump lets Putin sit in the president’s chair. Of course Trump will be nervous – it’s always that way when the boss comes over for dinner.

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  2. Mark Ivey says:

    The Trump Organization will start marketing and selling Russian Lada autos in America, and Trump Tower Moscow. That’s my bet.

  3. Gustopher says:

    Let’s step back for a moment: does an agreement with Donald Trump mean anything more than five minutes into the future?

    From all past experience, I think that it’s like getting an agreement from a toddler — there might be a few moments where the toddler appears to understand, but does anyone really expect a toddler to stick to a discussion of long-term strategy in Syria? Any value from these discussions comes not from what the toddler might have said, but from any statements of position the adult had that might have lodged somewhere in the toddler’s brain, and which might come in handy as the toddler grows into a child.

    Our toddler is in his seventies. He’s not going to grow into a child. Any actions the US takes will be more or less independent of what was discussed in the summit — Trump responds to praise, but only praise in the last few minutes.

    Within a month, all that he will remember is that it was a great summit, the best summit, and that he was great in it, the best really.

    At this point, what does it matter what was agreed to?

    Trump is dangerously inconsistent, and this could lead us into war because of this. He also tends to roll over for a belly rub anytime he thinks Putin wants something, so it probably won’t be a war, just a failure to support our allies and an abject surrender of our interests. But the summit doesn’t change that.

    It would be good to know such things as whether or not Trump revealed classified information (he did, almost certainly) and then follow up questions about which information, what sources have been burned, etc. I would expect that most foreign governments already know not to trust him with anything after he gave up Israeli intelligence.

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  4. Gustopher says:

    Let’s step back for a moment: does an agreement with Donald Trump mean anything more than five minutes into the future?

    From all past experience, I think that it’s like getting an agreement from a toddler — there might be a few moments where the toddler appears to understand, but does anyone really expect a toddler to stick to a discussion of long-term strategy in Syria? Any value from these discussions comes not from what the toddler might have said, but from any statements of position the adult had that might have lodged somewhere in the toddler’s brain, and which might come in handy as the toddler grows into a child.

    Our toddler is in his seventies. He’s not going to grow into a child. Any actions the US takes will be more or less independent of what was discussed in the summit — Trump responds to praise, but only praise in the last few minutes.

    Within a month, all that he will remember is that it was a great summit, the best summit, and that he was great in it, the best really.

    At this point, what does it matter what was agreed to?

    Trump is dangerously inconsistent, and this could lead us into war because of this. He also tends to roll over for a belly rub anytime he thinks Putin wants something, so it probably won’t be a war, just a failure to support our allies and an abject surrender of our interests. But the summit doesn’t change that.

    It would be good to know such things as whether or not Trump revealed classified information (he did, almost certainly) and then follow up questions about which information, what sources have been burned, etc. I would expect that most foreign governments already know not to trust him with anything after he gave up Israeli intelligence.

    (Le sigh. The fact that I must always type in my email, and fat fingers on an iPad, has apparently placed my comment in moderation. Backing up, fixing fat finger typo, trying again… if this is also in the moderation queue, don’t free both)

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    Russian envoy Anatoly Antonov listed … arms control as … issues the world leaders had agreed on

    Russia gets Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and the parts of Poland east of the Pisa, Narev, Vistula and San rivers. NATO gets to keep Romania, Lithuania, and the rest of Poland.

  6. Gustopher says:

    Another reasonable question to ask… “So What Did Trump And Putin Agree To That Trump Doesn’t Know About?”

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  7. Kathy says:

    This is completely unbelievable. Secret treaties were the bane of European diplomacy for a rather long time. the practice was so thoroughly discredited, that even secret codicils fell into disuse.

    Even so, no haughty monarch or supremely arrogant minister was ever stupid enough to keep treaties or agreements from their own governments. It stands to reason you cannot keep such things secret from the people who will carry them out.

    But then Trump the Lying Pervert is that stupid.

  8. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:

    Trump clearly gave something to Putin–and intended to do so all along–that he wants kept secret. Hence his insistence on a one-on-one meeting with no aides nor advisors present. Do we have any idea if Putin brought only his translator? Or was he accompanied by others?

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:

    Even so, no haughty monarch or supremely arrogant minister was ever stupid enough to keep treaties or agreements from their own governments.

    Pre-WW1 Britain’s War Office did (I’m reading The Guns of August) keep their coordination with the French government secret from the rest of the British government.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    I would like credit for the fact that I did not write a series of increasingly puerile jokes in response to the question in the headline. At no time did I even consider the words ‘spit’ or ‘swallow.’ You’re welcome.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    With that pic, Putin looks like a Bond villain…of course, we already know who his oafish henchman is…

  12. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I”m a trifle disappointed. I always enjoy participating in puerile dirty humor. Especially when it involves Mangolini.

  13. Moosebreath says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    “Well, apparently Putin is going to visit the US this fall,”

    And apparently Trump did not even let his Director of National Intelligence know in advance.

    “Press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump and Putin had agreed at their summit on Monday in Finland that their security staffs would have an “ongoing working-level dialogue” and as part of that, Trump told national security adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to the United States.

    That came as news to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was being interviewed onstage at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday when the announcement took place.

    “Say that again?” Coats said when told of the invitation. “OK,” he said. “That’s going to be special.”

    Coats said earlier in his interview with NBC News anchor Andrea Mitchell that he doesn’t know what Trump and Putin discussed during the more than two hours they met behind closed doors.”

    NPR played the audio of the interview tonight. Coats sounded absolutely flabbergasted when he heard about this.

  14. de stijl says:

    That was just dumb-ass Yalta.

    Do we still have East Germany and Poland? Did Ivan Drago still get his ass beat in Ricky 4 or did that get ret-conned out of existence?

  15. Jax says:

    @Gustopher: I give you the scary “two thumbs up, you’re probably right on that”. He has no idea how any of this works. All he sees are towers with his name on them, and dancing ladies.

  16. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Ricky 4” is the ret-con version of Rocky 4 in this new timeline. Ivan Drago wins.

  17. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Moosebreath: The video is amazing Coates learns

  18. Guarneri says:

    “This is just the beginning of the list, of course, and lord only knows what else the two Presidents could have discussed alone, and what the President may have foolishly agreed to.”

    How long has Carnac the Magnificent been working the OTB gig?

  19. tm01 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Russia gets Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and the parts of Poland east of the Pisa, Narev, Vistula and San rivers. NATO gets to keep Romania, Lithuania, and the rest of Poland.

    Wow. You people really are delusional.

    I was going to make a somewhat snarky comment along the lines of, I expect Russia to invade Ukraine, blatantly and openly militarily and economically supporting Iran, just being overtly more aggressive in general, but man….I don’t think I can top that one.

    Maybe Trump will give Alaska back to Russia and send them a pallet full of cash?

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  20. tm01 says:

    Here’s an interesting bit from the NYT:

    The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

    In order to Get Trump, it sure looks like the NYT and the Intelligence Community just revealed an intelligence source close to Putin.

    With all these leaks and now this, it’s no wonder Trump wouldn’t want legions of aides in the room with him.

    If you want to talk treason, let’s talk about the NYT here. Party over Country.

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  21. drj says:

    @tm01:

    the NYT and the Intelligence Community just revealed an intelligence source close to Putin.

    Why do you think the existence of that source is being leaked now instead of January 2017 when the briefing took place?

    The obvious reason is that this source has already been burned and is now probably dead. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this happened because Trump blabbed to his good friend Vlad.

    He pulled a stunt like that at least once before, remember?

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @tm01: Sarcasm is wasted on some people. For that matter so is oxygen.

  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @tm01:

    In order to Get Trump, it sure looks like the NYT and the Intelligence Community just revealed an intelligence source close to Putin.

    Really? Who is it? Oh you don’t know. You have no fvcking idea. You’re just making up BS again. Got it.
    For all you know Putin already knew and had whoever it is killed.
    None of it matters. What matters is that your dear leader has been lying to y0u for years and you eat it like jello.

  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @tm01:
    And your beloved NRA is a Russian tool, also.
    You’re a traitor to your nation.

  25. Mister Bluster says:

    Given that, who knows what he might have agreed to?

    Trump is inviting Putin to the White House so “Bad Vlad” can bestow the Hero of the Russian Federation Medal on TMzero, JKB and Bungles for being Toadies to the Russian State.

  26. KM says:

    @tm01:

    Wow. You people really are delusional.

    Look, you already have solid evidence that something was agreed to in the meeting that relevant people know jack sh^t about. There’s video of Coates – go see the link above to see for your own eyes that Trump’s making promises he’s not telling anyone else about, even if those people *really* should be kept in the loop. Now, whether you consider such concessions harmless or not (it’s only a visit, amirite?) it’s the simple fact that we have no idea what else he agreed to and he’s not feeling like sharing. With ANYONE.

    This. Is. A. Problem.
    And it’s perfect logical to wonder why and what else happened.

    You tell your people what they need to know or they can’t do their job. The only reasons you don’t tell them is (a) secrecy is necessary for something else more important to happen or (b) you don’t trust them to know. Why in the world would Trump not tell his staff a foreign leader’s coming later in the year? Don’t they have to do prep work, security arrangements, schedule meetings or hell, plan the damn menu? Why does Director of National Intelligence find out when we do and has to have the press pass along the info? Why is something as seemingly innocuous and routine as a state visit “need to know”…. and why wasn’t Coates somebody that needed to know before Sanders opened her mouth?

  27. Stormy Dragon says:

    @tm01:

    Wow. You people really are delusional.

    Since you obviously didn’t get the reference, the joke was that was the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

  28. al Ameda says:

    @tm01:

    Maybe Trump will give Alaska back to Russia and send them a pallet full of cash?

    That would be an interesting.
    I’d expect that the Russians would return the money to Trump personally in the usual manner – by laundering it through Trump’s real estate operation.

  29. Joe says:

    @KM:

    The only reasons you don’t tell them is (a) secrecy is necessary for something else more important to happen or (b) you don’t trust them to know. Why in the world would Trump not tell his staff a foreign leader’s coming later in the year?

    There is another option: piss poor management skills. I have said here several times that one core problem with Trump is that – whatever skills he may have to run a real estate company (and I don’t concede those) – those skills are simply not scalable to the Presidency. He can run a transaction by having a meeting with the lead negotiator other side and he can then feed the output of that meeting to his inferiors as it occurs to him to do so. That just doesn’t work with the US Government.

  30. Mikey says:

    @tm01: Someone much smarter than you (not a very high bar, but still) made a wry joke referencing a significant historical event of which you are apparently ignorant (no surprise there, most Trumpists are utterly ignorant of history), and you then called them “delusional.” Irony truly is dead.

    Why don’t you go shill for treason somewhere else and let the grown-ups talk?

  31. Moosebreath says:

    @Mikey:

    “Irony truly is dead.”

    Or, as the old saying goes, irony is lost on the brassy.

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @tm01: Wait a second. The NYT leaked information about a source related to Putin and this is “party over country”? REALLY? Who the fork are you?

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM:

    The only reasons you don’t tell them is (a) secrecy is necessary for something else more important to happen or (b) you don’t trust them to know.

    Well technically, there is a third reason–one deliberately runs their middle management to cultivate a climate of mutual distrust so that middle managers will fawn on the boss more–but that reason is probably the most stupid of all.

    Which is why I’ll ascribe that motive to Trump’s decisions in this case.

  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Joe:
    It’s the businessman fallacy beloved by Republicans since the Jurassic age. If only government could run like a business! Of course this is believed fervently by small businesspeople who imagine that running a small collection of Subway stores in Idaho is really about as tough as being POTUS.

    Being president is a job with certain requirements. An IQ above room temperature is one such requirement. An ability to focus. Mental endurance. An intuitive grasp of nuance. Grace. Decency. A sense of duty. You know, like Obama.

  35. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder if there is any precedent for an American president to meet any foreign leader, but particularly a hostile foreign leader, in private with only translators present? Someone needs to explain how that doesn’t look shady and leads to people wondering what was agreed upon…