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President Trump and President Putin at the APEC leaders' summit in Danang, Vietnam, on November 11, 2017. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

When President Trump meets President Putin next week in Helsinki, talk may turn to their shared belief in state sovereignty and hard borders. Putin’s approach to sovereignty is, of course, hypocritical — used selectively to justify aggression abroad while providing an excuse for oppression at home.

What's next: Trump should take Putin’s high talk of sovereignty and borders at face value and use it to his advantage. After all, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continued occupation of Crimea and the Donbas remains the greatest infringement of a sovereign state’s rights since the Cold War. If ensuring a state’s ability to protect its borders is a leader’s highest calling, as both presidents claim to believe, it would seem Ukraine should enjoy those rights too.

The backdrop: Trump has made border protection the cornerstone of his domestic policy and has been raising it more often with foreign leaders as well. Last month, he criticized Germany for allowing in refugees rather than enforcing border controls and, in a call with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, discussed the "importance of border protection and agreed that a country that cannot defend its own borders is no longer a country."

Putin enjoys reminding others that sovereignty is at the core of his worldview. He has used “sovereignty protection” as justification for intervening in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad, committing to defend Syria’s “territorial integrity” even in the face of Assad's chemical weapons attacks on his own people and the subsequent U.S.–led coalition bombing of Syrian positions.

The Russian president has also used the principle of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs to justify expelling Western non-governmental organizations from Russia and suppressing Russian independent media by labeling them as foreign agents. It is this same supposed commitment to the sovereignty principle that Putin uses to deny Russian meddling in foreign elections.

Alina Polyakova is the David M. Rubenstein Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Go deeper

Trump can't quit mainstream media

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" in September. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa issued a rebuttal on Friday to a statement by former President Donald Trump that misrepresented their reporting — and once again showed the 45th president's thin skin about mainstream media.

Driving the news: "Former President Trump said ... our book, 'Peril,' implied that he was planning to go to war with China," the statement begins. "[W]e report that Chairman of Joint Chiefs Mark Milley 'believed that Trump did not want a war' before or after the 2020 election."

NY declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron COVID variant

Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement about a new plan transforming Penn Station on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases and the newly-identified Omicron variant of the virus.

Driving the news: The declaration enables the state to acquire supplies to fight a potential surge in cases, increase hospital capacity and combat potential staff shortages, NBC's local affiliate reports.

4 hours ago - Health

First cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant discovered in U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in the United Kingdom overnight, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The discovery comes as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.