Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will work together to create a bilateral committee to investigate election hacking. Or maybe they won't. They probably wont.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, recounted their meeting at this year's G20 in a recent press briefing. The two world leaders met for just over two hours in an encounter which was brimming with “positive chemistry”, according to Tillerson.
Trump reportedly led by asking, "I'm going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?" referring to the widespread allegations that Russia hacked the 2016 general election. Over a “robust and lengthy exchange,” Putin denied the charge, as he always has done. Trump later backed this up in his own press conference he holds with the entire world at all times.
I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
They also made their way through a salad of topics currently facing the world, including the current situation in Syria and the threats to nearby Jordan.
Still, Tillerson mentioned that neither wanted to remain stuck in the mire that surrounded Donald Trump's unforeseen rise to power, nor the incriminating evidence that suggest Russia interfered in the democratic process of one of the world's most powerful democracies. Which is why, he told press, “we've agreed to continue engagement and discussion around how do we secure a commitment that the Russian government has no intention of and will not interfere in our affairs in the future.”
On the back of that, Trump and Putin have apparently begun exploring a joint framework, around which international state cyber-operations could be defended against and its perpetrators held accountable.
It was agreed that a “working-level group” would be set up to explore the matter. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, later corroborated that in his own report to press.
Trump personally expanded upon the idea a short while later, through a portal directly into his mind.
Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
Ewan Lawson, senior fellow for military influence at the Royal United Services Institute is sceptical. It would be “difficult to see how this would work in reality”, he told SC Media UK.
Furthermore, “any US involvement in elections, however anodyne, is unlikely to be exposed by their agencies either. The Microsoft proposal for a UN agency to undertake 'neutral attribution' whilst hugely challenging would perhaps be more effective.”
The meeting has been a long time coming. During the campaign, Donald Trump spoke of their compatibility as well as their shared interests, suspicion of NATO and dislike of former president Barack Obama. Still, the meeting may not have been quite as romantic as its participants might have hoped. After the idea faced a tide of criticism, saying that such a framework would be meaningless considering the partial forces which which it is fundamentally bound, Trump is now backing away. In fact, it appears as though he never meant for the idea to ever be realised. He tweeted earlier today:
The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017