Russia sours on Trump after cancellation of talks with Putin
MOSCOW — President Donald Trump may have stood up Russian President Vladimir Putin once too often. After Trump snubbed the Kremlin leader twice in less than a month, Russia is losing faith in Trump’s promise to improve relations and bracing instead for increased tensions.
Feted by Russian lawmakers with applause and Champagne after his election in 2016, Trump’s mercurial decision-making is increasingly seen as a liability in Moscow.
Russian officials were taken aback when Trump tweeted that he was canceling talks with Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina RTD Weather Desk ................. Page B3 hours before they were due to meet last week, a decision one of them called really bad.
Since then, Russian frustration has steadily grown, according to four senior officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.
“This is a signal for us that it’s difficult to deal with this person, that he’s unreliable and unsuitable as a partner,” said Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin. “Russian patience is coming to an end.”
The failure to meet in Buenos Aires followed canceled talks between Trump and Putin in Paris on Nov. 11. It was the third such situation in 12 months, puncturing lingering Russian hopes of a breakthrough in U.S. relations nearly two years after Trump took office.
As Putin warns of a new arms race over Trump’s threat to abandon a landmark nuclear treaty, the Kremlin has left itself with little
“This is a signal for us that it’s difficult to deal with this person. ... Russian patience is coming to an end.”
alternative than to dig in for confrontation over U.S. demands.
While Trump invited Putin to visit Washington at their Helsinki summit, that’s now “out of the question,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. They’re unlikely to meet again before the next G-20 summit in Japan in June, he said.
The disillusionment with Trump may mean Russia takes a harder line in talks with the U.S. on issues including arms control, the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and the Iranian nuclear accord. It may also retaliate against possible future U.S. sanctions after Putin held back from taking measures in response to earlier rounds of penalties.
The U.S. has accused Russia of repeatedly engaging in “malign behavior” since Trump took office, making it politically difficult for him to work to improve relations even if he wanted to. Tensions may spike further in coming months if the U.S. decides to impose fresh sanctions over alleged Russian election meddling.
Even as Congress and the White House ratcheted up sanctions over the past few months, the Kremlin worked tirelessly to embrace Trump.
Putin declared at the Helsinki summit in July that he’d wanted Trump to win the election, while insisting Russia hadn’t interfered.
Putin also defended Trump after the U.S. president provoked a backlash at home by siding with Putin against the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia did meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections.
Although Russian officials previously expressed “understanding” of Trump’s political difficulties amid U.S. investigations into meddling, they openly cast doubt on him recently. The president blamed Russia’s naval clash with Ukraine near Crimea for the G-20 cancellation.
Russian state television, which formerly lauded Trump, now heaped ridicule on him.
“What kind of a man is this? First he says it will happen, then it won’t,” said Evgeny Popov, host of the prime-time “60 Minutes” news program. “This is just stupidity. He seems to be an unbalanced individual. Trump was never our friend — never!”
“It’s far worse than it would have been under Clinton,” said Frants Klintsevich, a senator who sits on the governing council of the ruling United Russia party. “She’s an experienced politician and any of her actions would have been based on logic and some kind of discussion. Here we’re seeing huge swings in one direction and another.”
Although Trump has continued to signal an interest in better ties, he’s done so with less frequency publicly and his top aides have been quick to criticize Russian actions.
For instance, during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the attack on Ukrainian ships a reckless and “outlaw” action.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it a “dangerous escalation and a violation of international law.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shook hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.