Major Disappointment For the Media: Trump Does Not Plan A Summit With Putin

Last night this story came out via the London Sunday Times:

Donald Trump is planning to hold a summit with Vladimir Putin within weeks of becoming president — emulating Ronald Reagan’s Cold War deal-making in Reykjavik with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Trump and his team have told British officials that their first foreign trip will be a meeting with the Russian leader, with the Icelandic capital in pole position to host the superpower talks as it did three decades ago.

In a bid to reset western relations with the Kremlin, Trump will begin work on a deal limiting nuclear weapons.

I’ve learned over the past year to never say something won’t happen but this struck me as improbable for several reasons. Nuclear issues require months of prep works, leaders only met after there have been extensive staff negotiations. There has been none of that. If Obama had been negotiating a significant nuclear agreement you can bet he would not let Trump take credit for it. Our main issues and pain points with Russia have nothing to do with nuclear weapons. An agreement on conventional forces would have been plausible. But, it, too, would have required extensive staff work. What made me really question the whole thing was the “meeting in Reykjavik” thing.

Reykjavik, of course, is the venue where failed negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev laid the groundwork for substantive nuclear arms reduction:

After the negotiations broke down without a final agreement, Reagan wrote that he left the meeting knowing how close they had come to achieving his long goal of eliminating the threat of nuclear destruction, and that this was the angriest moment of his career.

Despite failing to achieve either man’s ultimate goal, Reykjavik will be recorded as one of the most important summits in history. A year after Reykjavik the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), for the first time eliminating an entire class of nuclear weapons. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed a few years later during President H.W Bush’s term.

None of this progress would have been possible without the courage of two leaders to look beyond past hostilities and forge a new and lasting relationship, that would soon provide greater security for people around the world.

Sean Spicer has batted the story down:

Showmanship is one thing. Self-parody is another (though I do have moments of doubt over whether Trump thinks there is any difference). Plus, after the prize journalism by BuzzFeed and the torrent of intelligence community leaks alleging unseemly ties between Trump and the Kremlin, the optics of a quickly organized summit with Putin would have been horrible in addition to being a colossal waste of time.