Aspen Security Forum panelists analyze Trump’s affinity for Putin
A panel of experts on Russia said Friday that President Donald Trump walked away from his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin a weaker man.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of Nikita Krushchev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, said this week’s meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki was eye-opening.
“It does seem that Donald Trump went into the meeting on behalf of Donald Trump and that is the most shocking revelation because Putin, however autocratic he can be, went there on behalf of Russia,” she said.
When asked by moderator and GQ correspondent Julia Loffe which politician did better, the panelists all agreed Putin walked away the winner.
“He had a blast,” Krushcheva said. “He didn’t expect Donald Trump to fold that easily. He could not not (sic) have felt complete satisfaction, as like, ‘Look, I told you those Americans are idiots and I’m just showing to you how idiotic they are.’”
Panelist Andrew Weiss, former director of Russian, Ukrainian and Eastern Affairs for the National Security Council, said Putin way outperformed Trump.
“Donald Trump basically set himself on fire,” he said.
Victoria Nulan, former assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, said Putin likely played on Trump’s uneasiness of having to operate with constraints like the U.S. Constitution.
“Clearly whatever else happened in that two-hour one-on-one, President Vladimir Putin played on this sense … and offered him a number of probably cruddy deals and made them sound fabulous,” she said.
Nulan added that Trump walked into the Helsinki summit in a position of strength to cut significant deals with the Russians. Instead, Trump acquiesced to Putin’s claims that his government did not interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, despite U.S. intelligence countering the denial.
With the announcement that Putin will come to the White House this fall, it’s not too late to turn that around, Nuland said.
“I think a do-over summit in the fall might be an opportunity for us to get it right,” she said.
When asked why Trump is so enamored by Putin, Krushcheva said perhaps the Russians found some information when they were using back channels leading up to the election.
“He may have some dirt on him,” she said.
As a professor of international affairs at The New School who studies dictatorial and autocratic policies and has watched Putin for 18 years, Krushcheva said the men are similar in many ways.
“Autocrats like autocrats; they deal with them better. They understand them better,” she said. “They subscribe to the same kind of view of the world that they are on top of it and the rest is nothing.”
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