The US and Russian presidents are expected to hold their first meeting as leaders on Friday. Vladimir Putin is a master of detail and adept in manoeuvres. Donald Trump had better read his briefing notes
Donald Trump is expected to hold his first meeting as US president with Vladimir Putin on Friday, at the G20 summit in Hamburg. On Thursday, visiting Poland, he expressed support for Nato’s collective security guarantees and urged Russia to “cease its destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere”. Last month the US broadened sanctions against Russian companies and individuals. This will, to a degree, have reassured allies. But the message has come late, and will not dispel Mr Putin’s hopes of capitalising on the growing gap between Mr Trump and the Europeans.
The Russian president is an adept practitioner of mind games. He was schooled in them as a KGB counter-intelligence officer. With the international liberal order shaken by Mr Trump’s ascendance, never has so much uncertainty hung over a high-level US-Russia encounter in the post-Soviet era. This reflects Mr Trump’s unpredictability as much as Mr Putin’s tactics: on the eve of the meeting, even Mr Trump’s aides seemed to be in the dark as to what he would do or say.