Trump-Putin Meeting: A Lesson for The New White House

Amid harsh criticism and suspicion back home, President Donald Trump met with Russian homolog Vladimir Putin Friday July 7th, as a part of his G20 summit program. The two global leaders had a formal sit down, which went longer than many expected, where several issues were discussed behind closed doors. The meeting, although at first sight rather casual, following the likes of previous meetings, brought to surface the naiveté and inexperience of amateur politician Donald Trump and his Administration.


When posing and giving brief ambiguous remarks for the media, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin conducted themselves in slightly different manners. Novice Donald seemed rather stiff, while his Russian counterpart maintained a casual posture in attendance for the American President’s words. Appearances aside, the real difference in experience was demonstrated during the brief exchange of perspectives. Donald Trump’s “It is an honor to be here with you” resonated as very artless in the diplomatic sense. Although to many it might seem as an irrelevant detail of speech, in the broader political scheme, especially against an international rival, speaks miles of a leader’s personality and conductivity. The President represents his country and his people, and that is why speech is crucial in diplomatic interaction. The French call their politicians’ art of expression “L’art de l’eloquence”, and will demolish a politician on his speaking manners. Trump would have been off the hook if  Putin had responded with a similar expression, returning his honor for the American homologue, but it did not unfold that way. The Kremlin’s leader responded with the phrase “Delighted to finally meet you” which was very carefully chosen. Putin is a mastermind of diplomacy, and very well trained and well informed in a variety of fields, including speech, body language etc. In failing to respond with a synonymous expression, Putin showed Trump he is not easily befriended through a meet and greet. The American President has a long way to go before rivaling the Kremlin’s fox in the art of diplomacy.


Most of what took place away from the cameras is not available to the press, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only American statesmen in the room disclosed some of the discussion. Tillerson was asked specifically about the Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, for which he responded by stating that President Trump did bring up the matter, diving into a complex conversation with the Russians. What is highlighted as a result of this, is the inexperience of the Trump White House Press and officials. Right after the encounter, Moscow through their Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement. The document also addressed the discussion about election interference, and according to Moscow, the two leaders had spoken and the American side had agreed with Putin’s refutal of any such Russian involvement. White House officials denied this claim later, but it demonstrated how The Kremlin was one step ahead of the game. Sergei Lavrov’s statement raises further suspicion on Trump’s inability to stand his ground, and his staff’s inability to calculate consequences and details of events. The image painted so far, is that of a well organized alert Kremlin, and a sluggish, lethargic Washington. The new Administration has four years to catch up.


Regardless of the “Art of Diplomacy”, the first meeting between the two world leaders proceeded fairly well. Trump and Putin seemed to find Chemistry with each other. Later throughout the day, with guidance from Moscow and Washington the summit was able to reach a deal on a ceasefire with Syria. Other matters were discussed, but the two leaders seemed fairly optimistic on the outcome. Nevertheless, the question still haunts Westerners: Is Putin to be trusted? Everyone is aware of his political betrayals, flirtation with totalitarianism, KGB background and much more. The Russian President is a master manipulator, and his intentions of restoring Russia’s former soviet glory won’t be quenched by a smile, handshake, and warm words. Your move Washington.

By: Rex Nazarko
Image Credit: The Nation

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