Transcript of Srdja Trifkovic’s RT interview in the immediate aftermath of President Putin’s press conference in Hamburg at the end of the G20 summit in Hamburg on Saturday afternoon, July 8. [Watch video]
RT: President Vladimir Putin has addressed the media after two days of talks with the world leaders at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Srdja Trifkovic joins us now live . . . Putin says that the forthcoming ceasefire in Syria was very positive, in fact that it was a breakthrough. But there was a question how to monitor the ceasefire zone in Syria. Russia’s foreign ministry says there would be Russian military police on the ground. Do you expect there would be a backlash from the Syrian rebels because of that?
ST: It is important that [Putin] specifically mentioned “the authorities in Damascus” as one of the parties essential to this deal working. He even mentioned President Bashar al Assad by name, which means that the Russian side most certainly will not accept any more of that old “Bashar-must-go” mantra. It is important that he mentioned Turkey and Iran in the same breath, as being on the same side, reading from the same page. We have two important hints here. One is that Ankara and Tehran are perceived by Moscow as being in the same camp of gradual pacification. The other is that it will no longer be possible for someone in Washington suddenly to remember, “and by the way, Bashar must go!” Unless it is accepted—even tacitly, quietly—that Bashar is part of the solution and not part of the problem, there will be no real breakthrough.
RT: Vladimir Putin also said that the U.S. position on Syria is “more pragmatic.” Does that mean that there will be no more incidents like when the U.S. shot down a Syrian plane in Raqqa?
ST: On the whole, paradoxically as it may seem, the Trump administration’s attitude is more pragmatic than Hillary Clinton’s would have been, or even that of the hawks in the Obama administration. The launching of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield and the shooting down of the Syrian plane were not followed—as the hawks in Washington had hoped—by an escalation, by mission creep, by the announcement that there were no-fly-zones and so on. These episodes, unpleasant as they were, proved to be one-off incidents that did not reflect an overall strategic change, a gearshift in Washington.
RT: The Russian president says of Donald Trump . . . this is one of the most interesting lines from his press conference, that “the man we see on television is different from what we see in the meeting,” the real man essentially. Do you think that Moscow and Washington will be able to mend the rift which was pretty apparent during the Obama administration?
ST: I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that the meeting went as well as it did, considering the absolutely hysterical atmosphere in the American media and inside-the-Beltway establishment. You had a feeding frenzy by the sharks, telling Trump that unless he brought Fiona Hill along into the room, who is critical of Putin, unless he told Putin this, that, and the other, unless he read him the riot act, that Putin would win. The Washington Post went so far as to say, two days ago, that if there is an understanding, if there is a new dialogue, then Putin wins. In other words, everybody in Washington’s establishment treated this as a zero-sum-game: if Trump doesn’t overcome Putin’s resistance and makes him admit that, indeed, Russia had meddles, then Putin wins. I am glad that Trump has turned out to be an adult in this situation. I am also glad that Putin perceives this. He understands that Trump is in a very difficult position, that any rapprochement, any détente, will be immediately grabbed by the media pack and the Democrats, and the neoconservative Republicans such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain, as proof that Trump has succumbed, that Trump has—in the words of a CNN commentary—“fallen into Putin’s trap.” He is really between rock and a hard place. Considering the circumstances, Trump has done well and Putin has given him credit for that.
[Image: screengrab via Youtube]