News and Articles

Should we applaud Trump’s attempts to mediate with Russia?

Paul Randolph, a former barrister but now professional TFUK mediator influenced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s principles of Ubuntu, reconciliation and forgiveness, and with focus on the ‘psychological aspects of conflict,’ questions whether we should be critical of or welcoming of Trump’s attempts to engage with Russia at a time when international diplomacy is struggling so badly.


Shock, horror Shock, horror, panic, mobilise the troops


Trump has met with Putin and invited the Russian President to a further summit in the United States. OMG!  But it is not pistols at dawn: these two global giants actually just want to talk!


Given the current state of world affairs, media editorialising and active and potentially pending and active legal cases being made against the US President in particular, many regard these negotiations as dangerous, ill-conceived, and sending out entirely the wrong message. That is a reasonable principled stance to adopt. It is widely accepted that the West’s message to Putin should be unequivocal: any state-led belligerent expansionist acts of aggression or interference are wholly unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the international community, much less rewarded.  Nevertheless, the very last person we might wish to put forward to stand firm against Putin and deliver the appropriate message is Trump, an individual who has repeatedly displayed unethical and highly dubious values, as well as possessing unpleasant personal characteristics, and whose own motives and agenda are appear deeply suspect.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Ubuntu Principles


As a Tutu Foundation UK (TFUK) advisor and professional mediator, imbued with Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Ubuntu spirit, principles and yearning for ‘finding humanity in all, seeking reconciliation and forgiveness in place of recrimination and revenge,’ I find myself progressively applauding and welcoming Trump’s initiatives, and in some measure gradually becoming less sceptical, cynical and apprehensive. Appeasement has regrettably become an utterly dirty word. World leaders and many others may be right to be fearful of failure, of humiliation and manipulation in any appeasement enterprise. This is indeed a risk. If we turn the other cheek, what happens if we find ourselves immediately slapped? However, surely ‘jaw-jaw’ remains ever preferable to ‘war-war.’ As the great Nelson Mandela said: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”


Mediation the Obvious Answer


From a mediator’s perspective, it is so plain and palpably obvious that face-to-face round table dialogue with a skilled mediator is far more effective than critical finger-wagging, hostility and a refusal to engage. Many disputes arise because one or both parties feel they have not been heard – properly, or at all - that no one is listening, they have been ignored, and so they feel obliged to shout louder and act more aggressively. Equally, the other side is prompted to respond more assertively, and so conflicts can swiftly and intensively escalate beyond control. At a mediation:

  • parties can be reminded that the most effective way to get the other side to listen is to demonstrate a genuine desire to listen to them
  • parties are facilitated, in an informal and safe environment free from undue critical attack, to set out, explain, clarify their actions, motivations, aims, objectives, needs, fears, concerns, aspirations, and hopes
  • Putin could set out his thinking, motivations and reasons for invasions of Crimea, Ukraine, Ostchetzia and if appropriate his reasoning could be challenged and questioned
  • both parties could be assisted in devising, refining, creating a ‘Golden Bridge’ that allows either or both of them to back down with dignity and without losing faith
  • The parties are assisted in ‘separating out the people from the problem’, focusing on the problem as the enemy rather than each other
  • Hopefully, and in this way, the parties are given the best opportunity to arrive  at a mutually and consensually agreed settlement, that is
    • creative, providing acceptable solutions that serve all parties equally
    • looks to the future, and moves the parties forward with possibly stronger future relationships


Is there more to  done for world peace?


Following the departure of the England team from the World Cup, many may have felt that their entire purpose was removed from beneath their feet, and that there no more challenges on the horizon to be overcome, no objectives or achievements to fight for, no goals to strive towards. This would indeed be sad and unfortunate:  there remains much to be done in the interests of world peace and much reconciliation to contemplate and tackle. It is far too early to tell whether the initiative of bringing Russia back into the fold and permitting it to hold the World Cup has made the world a safer place than is all had stood firm and refused them the opportunity. Indeed, continuing to treat Russia as a pariah state and imposing ever-increasingly harsh sanctions while making no attempt at any form of meaningful dialogue could prove disastrous for the world.


Can We Learn from The World Cup Experience?


In the vein we now seem to be creating a set of similar scenarios:

  • With the World Cup going next to Qatar. Once again ‘shock, horror, anguish, mobilise the troops: Are we really going to offer this to a country with an appalling record on Human Rights?’
  • North Korea - are we really are going to offer North Korea millions in aid and trade with such an appalling record on Human Rights?
  • Are we to shun any attempt at reaching out to China for fear of what it might do to the G7 and Nato?

Hopefully, we will have learned from the success of the World Cup and have the courage to suspend cynical fear and concerns – as did Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he set about – amidst very similar and often more violent opposition - the mammoth and courageous task of breaking down Apartheid, one of the most enduring, deeply-rooted barriers in centuries. Let us grasp every opportunity to take a leaf out of the Archbishop’s ‘Ubuntu’ philosophy and remind ourselves of the mantra that ‘we all share in common far more than we have apart.’


The Future?


Next challenge: the Middle East! Statistically the prospects of a successful resolution are extremely low, but then so were England’s chances of reaching the semi-finals, or Russia’s of getting as far as they did. Mediators learn to expect the unexpected. From here onwards I suggest that we refrain from the time-consuming and invariably unproductive scrutinising, dissecting and analysing of Trump’s nocturnal Tweets. Among the latest, his prophesying over Theresa Mays’s refusal to listen to and heed his advice about Brexit rendering UK-US trade deals near-impossible to conduct is a prime example. His ego was under attack and so he retaliated: Within hours both the message and tone had in any event changed. Equally importantly, his tweets may serve a positive purpose. Most challenges to the status quo precipitate change, without which there is stagnation and simply more of the same.


Trump’ has taken the initiative to hold out a hand of friendship to Putin, and sought to bring Russia back in from the cold from being an entirely pariah stat. He may be taking a leaf out of Nelson Mandela’s book:  Mandela said if he continued to hate, and remain hostile without any attempt at forgiveness, he would effectively remain as imprisoned as he was on Robben Island.


Should we make the most of Mandela’ anniversary and for a moment, afford Trump the benefit of the doubt?


Paul Randolph


Paul can be reached at




Website developed by Iconic Media Solutions Ltd.