Stories by Alexander Baunov

Expert Voices

Russia’s political class as concerned about Helsinki summit as America’s

Vladimir Putin whispering to Donald Trump during a meeting of world leaders.
President Putin and President Trump during a meeting of world leaders on the closing day of the 25th APEC Summit on November 11, 2017. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/TASS via Getty Images

Many critics of President Trump's foreign policy believe he is giving Russian President Vladimir Putin a gift by agreeing to a summit while ignoring sources of tension such as the annexation of Crimea and foreign election meddling. But a chummy photo op goes a very short way to meeting Putin’s actual needs.

Reality check: In his fourth and final term, Putin is focused on domestic priorities such as lifting the economy out of stagnation, improving infrastructure and raising the retirement age to ease social-program budgets. Sanctions and a toxic international environment are big obstacles to these plans. To deliver on this agenda, he needs Trump to deliver on a calmer foreign-policy and business environment.