Jul 6, 2017 - Politics & Policy

How Putin negotiates

Mikhail Metzel / AP

Former U.S. officials who've been on hand for meetings with Vladimir Putin describe him with a mix of wariness and begrudging respect.

President Trump's aides are understandably anxious ahead of Friday's meeting with Putin, a seasoned political operator and former K.G.B. officer. Here's a list of past Putin experiences, recounted by the Washington Post, the New York Times and The Independent.


  • In a meeting with Joe Biden in 2011, after Biden referred to a conversation with the Georgian Prime Minister, Putin said, "We know exactly what you're saying" to him, the Washington Post reported Wednesday night, adding, "Biden laughed, but Putin did not... the American delegation took Putin at his word."
  • Putin showed up 3 hours late to a meeting with John Kerry in 2013, and 40 minutes late to a meeting with Obama the year prior. Read more: The Independent has catalogued how long Putin has kept leaders (including the Pope) waiting.
  • Putin brought his labrador to a 2007 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has a fear of dogs.
  • In another 2007 meeting, according to a documentary from France 2 TV, Putin waited for then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy to list a number of concerns about human rights and, when he was finished, berated and belittled Sarkozy, leaving him visibly shaken at a press conference afterward.


  • Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state, told the Post:"This was a leader who was sure about what he was about and didn't need to bluster or pretend or try to impress."
  • Jon Finer, former senior aide to Biden and Kerry: his "body language tends to be slouched, looking down as if there are notes in front of him. He will then make eye contact for emphasis. I got the impression of someone who is supremely confident, relaxed, not super-animated. That's not to say the content of his words is relaxed or soft in any way. He can deliver quite hard messages."
  • Obama aides said he would recite a "long list of grievances" to open meetings.
  • "The Russian leader is typically the only person on his side of the table who speaks, the former aides said. He seldom delegates authority, and he has a solid command of the issues, especially energy, where he recites facts and figures."

The Trump factor

  • While Trump's aides are concerned about the meeting, he's not, according to the New York Times. "He has told aides he is more annoyed by the prospect of being scolded by… Merkel."
  • His aides "hope that a formal meeting, with aides present and an agenda, will leave less room for improvisation and relegate Russia's meddling in the campaign to a secondary topic, behind more pressing policy concerns that the president is eager to address."
  • "Two people close to Mr. Trump said they expected the men to bond over their disdain for 'fake news.'"
  • But, as always with Trump: "even his top aides do not know precisely what Mr. Trump will decide to say or do."
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