[…] Putin did not, in the event, run rings about Trump in Finland, nor did he outsmart Trump at the public podium, nor did he inveigle him into making concessions, either on sanctions or on Ukraine, or – so far as we know – anything else. No, it was not Putin who bested the US president at Helsinki, but those on Trump’s own side who had opposed the meeting from the start, were dead set against any improvement in US-Russia relations and went to great lengths to pre-empt the very possibility. […]
In his first dealings with foreign leaders – especially leaders of countries that are weaker and poorer than the United States – Trump understands something many American leaders have not: that no relationship will be established, talks will hardly get off the ground, unless those on the other side feel they are being treated with respect.
Many Americans will find this unnecessary; they might argue (with former secretary of state Madeleine Albright) that the US is, by its very nature and global pre-eminence, the “indispensable power”. But Trump, the transactional realist, understands something different. This is why the podium at Helsinki was set up as it was, why he ushered Putin in first, why Putin made the first statement and why Trump appeared to defer to Putin as he did. You can only do that from a position of strength; this is a plus, not a minus. Läs artikel