Trump has, after all, echoed Putin’s line on the 2016 attack on the American elections, endorsed Russia’s re-entry into the G-7, opened the door to formally recognizing Crimea as Russian soil, canceled joint military exercises with South Korea (which is a step Putin suggested to the Republican president), tried to further fracture the European Union, expressed his dissatisfaction with NATO, and moved toward handing Russia more power over developments in Syria.
The Deal-Maker in Chief took all of these steps in exchange for … nothing. There’s no evidence that Trump sought any concessions from Moscow in return for his recent pro-Russia efforts.
That said, the American leader will have an opportunity to advance his country’s interests when he travels to Helsinki for his first formal summit with Putin, scheduled for July 16. But we probably won’t know much about their private chat: CNN reported this week that the leaders won’t be accompanied by aides.
Without official note-takers or other witnesses, one-on-one meetings lack any official record, making it difficult afterward to determine whether agreements have been reached. Putin is known as a shrewd negotiator who some officials worry could exploit such a session and extract concessions from Trump.
If you’re wondering how this would even be possible, it’s worth remembering that Putin’s English isn’t bad.
But the practical considerations aren’t really what matters here. Trump wants to hold private discussions with the autocratic leader of a foreign adversary who attacked the United States in order to put him in power. Trump has already taken a series of pro-Kremlin steps – remember when he leaked highly sensitive intelligence to Russian officials? – and the American president is currently the subject of a criminal investigation, with investigators examining whether his political operation cooperated with Moscow during its intelligence operation that targeted our elections.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump wants to meet with Putin, one on one, without an official record of what the two discussed.
It seems a little suspicious, doesn’t it?