Carlos Barria / REUTERS Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to U.S. President Donald Trump during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 2017.

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The Real Opportunity Behind the Media Spectacle

By Michael Kimmage

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MICHAEL KIMMAGE is Professor of History at the Catholic University of America and the author of The Decline of the West: An American Story. From 2014 to 2016, he served on the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State, where he held the Russia/Ukraine portfolio.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for a frenetically anticipated summit on July 16 in Helsinki. Their encounter—coming amid cascading revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, unnerving questions about Trump’s admiration for his Russian counterpart, and U.S.-Russian tensions around the globe—is certain to be a media spectacle. But as its location subtly implies, the real importance of the meeting may have little to do with the theatrics at the top. Unglamorous, largely unnoticed diplomatic processes could prove more consequential. In Helsinki in 1975, the United States, the Soviet Union, and various European powers devised a security architecture for Europe that was controversial at the time but ultimately crucial to the Cold War’s peaceful end. Without the Helsinki Accords, which fostered agreement on Europe’s borders and enshrined a nominal commitment to human rights in the Eastern bloc, the revolutions of 1989 may never have come and almost certainly would not have been as peaceful as they were. Moma VELOME men's Casual Shoes in Black,Fendi Sneakers Shoes Men Fendi,Puma Suede Heart - Beige,R.M. Williams Comfort Turnout Boots, Black Regular G Fit, UK6,Altberg Boots AltBerg P1 Peacekeeper Original Black - 07 medium,Alberta Ferretti Court - Women Alberta Ferretti Courts online on United Kingdom - El Naturalista OCTOPUS women's Low Ankle Boots in Beige, Jonak DESIR women's Casual Shoes in Blue,ECCO 221003 221003-50148 UKIUK/SLATE Size: 43, Colour: SLATE,Ilona - 5cm Heel - Suede Black - UK 4.5,CAT Holton ST S3 Boot,Office Cage Chelsea Boots BLACK WAXY SUEDE,See By Chloé Boots - Women See By Chloé Boots online on United Kingdom - adidas TUBULAR SHADOW men's Shoes (Trainers) in Blue, Converse CHUCK TAYLOR ALL STAR NIKE FLYKNIT FLYKNIT MULTI HI FLYKNIT MULT men's Shoes (High-top Trainers) in Purple, Spylovebuy Dragoon women's Low Ankle Boots in Black,BatzShop Batz FC10 - beige - EU 36 - UK 3.5,Karhu Synchron Classic - Blauw,Nike Air Foamposite Pro - MulticolorMetisse Boots - Women Metisse Boots online on United Kingdom - 11499786FJ, Guess leopard shoe heel women's Sandals in Beige, Gabor FLANOU women's Sandals in Grey, Ash MIKO women's Mid Boots in Grey,Superga 2950 COTU 3 (EU 35.5) BlueReebok Club C 85 Pastels - Groen,Nike Air Max 1 Premium - Bruin,Footsure Magnum Footwear Active Duty Shoe Black / Clarks Lander Cap men's Shoes (Trainers) in Blue, Casual Attitude BROULI women's Mid Boots in Brown, Jonak VARTANE women's Court Shoes in Brown,The lessons of that previous U.S.-Russian encounter in Helsinki are worth remembering now. The agreement that resulted involved years of drab, painstaking diplomacy. It required agonizing compromise on both sides. It rested on work rather than optics. Under the shadow of low expectations, a difficult process preceded final success. The summit’s real importance, in other words, had little to do with momentary media spectacle. The same could be true of next week’s Trump-Putin meeting.

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