THE TRUMP PUTIN BROMANCE AT AN END?
Has the ‘bromance’ between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald S. Trump come to a quick end?
No sooner had Trump gotten off his phone call with President Putin when artillery and rocket fire started to rain down on Ukrainian positions along the Donbas.
The Russian offensive covers a 250 Kilometer front and is a direct violation of the 2015 Minsk II agreement that banned the presence of heavy artillery by both sides. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has reported that over 10,000 explosions have been observed in the last several days and the Ukrainian front-line city of Avdiivka, with a population of 18000, has been left without clean water, electricity or heat in freezing temperatures after having been hit by artillery and rocket fire some 400 times last Sunday and 800 times on Monday.
In short this is the largest Russian offensive in months. Ukrainian soldiers were bombarded with text messages threatening them in a telltale sign that Russian electronic warfare units, a strategic asset, had been deployed. On Wednesday, the Russians fired on a Ukrainian transport aircraft. The view is that Putin wants to secure his new-found territories in the annexed Crimea and Eastern Ukraine before reaching a deal with President Trump. The two-year-old conflict shows no sign of cooling down, and with almost 9000 people reportedly killed, and swaths of Ukrainian territory now under Russian control since the Russian invasion in 2014.
The problem now for Putin is that President Trump’s ego is as big, if not bigger than the Russian strongman’s own ego, and it is unlikely that Donald S. Trump is going to take too kindly to be lied to or misled in their first phone call. A sign of the change in tone came last night when United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, a Trump loyalist, attacked the Kremlin for its aggressive actions in the Eastern Ukraine. Haley also made it clear that the United States was going to maintain its Ukraine-related sanctions until Russia fully withdraws from all Ukrainian territory.
If there was any degree of trust between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is likely gone now, and gone forever.