Trump’s closest advisers (especially national-security adviser John Bolton) can rein him in from trying to buddy-buddy stuff with Putin. Also, keep him from even hinting that Crimea annexation is O.K. and/or we’ll let bygones be bygones... What he might do is scope out whether Putin might go for extension of New Start before it expires in 2021 (but remember: all Trump knows about New Start is that it’s an Obama thing and therefore poison). The treaty is heading for the ash heap of history—which could mean that arms control is kaput... [There are no historical parallels to this summit]. It would be an insult to JFK to say that the Vienna summit with Nikita Khrushchev was anything like this. JFK committed a rookie error. Trump has a plan—if you can call it that—to reorient the U.S. to leaders that he has an affinity for and countries that he’d like ours to become... Too many people—including many who have no excuse—are not paying attention [to] the damage Trump is doing to the U.S., the West, and the liberal (there! I said it) rule-based order... or, if they are, they don’t care enough to do something [about it].
We know what Mr. Putin hopes to get out of the summit: an outcome that further weakens Western democracies while deepening the fissures in NATO, the disintegration of the “political West,” and the ongoing abnegation of America’s historic role as the leader of the Atlantic community and the liberal world order. We can surmise how Mr. Putin will pursue that overarching goal: with flattery and the siren song of a partnership between the two superpowers now led by strong champions of making their countries “great again,” while continuing his expansionist policies and cyberwar against democracy. If he succeeds, the encounter could be the low point of Western diplomacy since Munich.
The president has hobbled his own executive branch [on Russia policy], and the executive branch has hobbled its own president. It’s a three-legged race with the contestants going in opposite directions.