MOSCOW — It wouldn’t be exaggerating to contend that the first meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was the most anticipated political encounter this year. Given the US political focus on Russia during the past eight months, and the tense character of the relationship between Moscow and Washington, some observers hoped the meeting could signal a fresh start, while others felt it would be a litmus test of whether the two states will continue on the path of confrontation.
Some Trump skeptics in Moscow have more faith in the power of the American “deep state” than the president’s ability to change the US attitude toward the Kremlin; they expect continued confrontation. Some Putin critics in Washington have an equally strong belief in his interference in the US elections and Russia’s collusion with the administration; they predict Trump will find himself submissive to or outsmarted by the “Russian czar.” So when the first reports on the results of the meeting — which lasted more than two hours instead of the scheduled 30 minutes — started to circulate, plenty of people in both capitals felt their predictions were proving accurate. The only difference is that, to prove their point, the Russian Trump skeptics must wait to see if the Putin-Trump agreements fall apart due to US government opposition, while the American critics of Putin believe they already have enough reason to fear the United States is growing too cozy with Russia.