President Trump chatted at some length with Vladimir Putin during a dinner for G-20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany last week. The Washington Post and New York Times describe the meeting as “undisclosed,” an accurate description in the sense that Trump’s team didn’t tell the press about it.
But the press acts as if Trump was obligated to tell it. He wasn’t.
The press also acts as if there was something furtive about the talk. There wasn’t. It took place in plain view of nearly two dozen world leaders.
The only part of the story I find mildly troubling is that Trump reportedly sought Putin out. Couple this fact with reports that Trump, at the beginning of his formal meeting with Putin, told the thuggish Russian leader “it’s an honor to meet you,” and I begin to wonder whether Trump is being obsequious.
At a minimum, I think his encounters with Putin can be perceived this way. It’s fair to ask what message it sends to the other world leaders at the dinner, many of whom represent our allies, for the U.S. president to seek out Putin.
Maybe Trump is just trolling. Trolling the press would be one thing. Trolling our allies over something as important as Russia would be another.
I don’t want to make too much of this. That’s the anti-Trump media’s job.
What really counts, of course, is how Trump conducts U.S. policy towards Russia. So far, he’s conducted that policy well enough, I believe, and certainly better than his predecessor.
But signs of obsequiousness towards Putin, coupled with his soft campaign pronouncements about the thuggish Russian, invite heightened scrutiny of Trump’s Russia policy. They invite such scrutiny quite apart from dubious, and so far unsubstantiated, claims that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.