Before coming to Europe, US President Donald Trump raised eyebrows by predicting that Monday’s historic Helsinki summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would be the “easiest” stage of his tour.
The rest of his trip, to Brussels and Britain, has indeed crackled with controversy so far.
“Putin has proven himself to be incredibly savvy at reading personalities and characters,” said Alina Polyakova, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, noting that Putin was trained as a KGB spy.
“He will praise Trump and try to bond with him in sort of a mano-a-mano way. Trump will be responsive to that tack,” she said.
Some in Washington — along with US allies — are worried about what Trump might bargain away after he used a stormy G7 summit in Canada to ponder whether it was time to readmit Russia to the club and move past sanctions imposed over Moscow’s seizure of the Crimea region from Ukraine.
Putin has less reason to cheer from Trump’s imposition of trade tariffs on countries including Russia, and from his decision to abandon a nuclear pact with Iran.