As President-elect Trump officially becomes President Trump, there will be no transition period for the pressing issues the new administration will seek to address during its initial days in office and via an ambitious 100-day plan.
For all the favorable rhetoric exchanged between Trump and Russian President Putin, controversy surrounding Moscow’s influence in the election and discredited reports of Trump’s visits to Moscow as a private citizen, the first opportunity to see how the two Cold War antagonists might interact seems to have presented itself.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov announced the initiation of peace talks on the Syrian civil war, taking place in the capital city of Kazakhstan, Astana. Moscow has already displayed an intention to change the status quo by inviting the Trump administration to participate in the peace talks. This invitation is in contrast to the conspicuous absence of the United States and representatives of the Obama administration in previous negotiations.
The conflict that has ravaged northern Syria has left Aleppo a shell of its former self. Now largely controlled by the Assad regime, in part because of the exertion of Russian force in the region, Aleppo, once a mecca of culture, has seen its mosques and buildings transform into fortified bases riddled with bullet holes and battle scars.
Peace talks are also simultaneously underway in Geneva, led by the United Nations, but the Russian led talks are distinct in that they offer a discussion platform for the fighting domestic factions. The United States’s response to the invitation was noncommittal and stated little beyond a confirmation that their invitation to participate was received and is under review.
With or without U.S. representatives, the talks will begin later in the month and will include representatives from Russia, Iran, Turkey and the U.N. It will be intriguing to see how the Trump administration will move forward and respond to the first public overture between Moscow and the newly inaugurated Trump administration.
The recent spate of confirmation hearings has given the public a brief glimpse into what type of relationship to expect, but until events like these unfold little can be known for certain. Moscow has previously stated that fighting terrorism and Syrian conflict are potential areas for cooperation between the two giants.
*Global Smackdown is a 23-minute multimedia forum facilitated by Dr. Tim Horner every Thursday at 2 p.m. in Corr 103.