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. Replay JANIS women's Casual Shoes in Blue,Nike Air Force 1 '07 Trainers - Black,Laurence Dacade Helie Studded Suede T-strap Sandal,Dubarry Kildare Boots, Walnut, UK 12 (EU47),Altberg Boots AltBerg P1 Peacekeeper Original Black - please select,Albano Court - Women Albano Courts online on United Kingdom - 11527300ME, Diesel S-KBY men's Shoes (Trainers) in Blue, France Mode ZADAR SE TA women's Sandals in BlackOriginal Penguin Luper Sneaker OFF WHITE LEATHER598 - 60 Nappa Gold 6cm heel - Nappa Gold - UK 3,Hi-Tec Moreno WP Mens Boot,Ladies Duchess Sheepskin Slippers Chocolate UK Size 5/6,Sebastian Boots - Women Sebastian Boots online on United Kingdom - 11445852GE, adidas TUBULAR SHADOW men's Shoes (Trainers) in Blue, Muratti AIMOS women's Low Ankle Boots in Aldo CYDNEE women's Mid Boots in Black,Cole Haan Grandpro Runner Trainer Off WhiteDubarry Pacific X LT Deck Shoes, Donkey Brown, UK11,Jordan Air 2 Retro OG - Wit,Melissa Boots - Women Melissa Boots online on United Kingdom - 11471769QK, Joya ZERMATT BLACK women's Mules / Casual Shoes in Birkenstock ARIZONA HEX women's Mules / Casual Shoes in Black, Betty London DOODI women's Mid Boots in BrownSuperga 2950 COTU 8.5 (EU 42.5) White,Marks and Spencer Footglove Leather Wedge Tassle Ruched Ankle Boots,Saucony Shadow 6000 - Wit,Isabel Marant Boots - Women Isabel Marant Boots online on United Kingdom - 11463628JJ, Art IMEET women's Sandals in Black, Converse ALL STAR FANCY LEATHER OX women's Shoes (Trainers) in Grey, CallagHan NAPALIN women's Sandals in BlueThe 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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