20 April 2017, The Tablet

Still out in the cold: Why President Putin is yet to meet 'The Donald'


Vladimir Putin is not known for showing restraint when under attack. Yet with Washington seized by anti-Russia frenzy, the often irascible Russian leader seems determined to stay cool

Guess who hasn’t been to dinner – with Donald Trump, that is. Theresa May positively rushed across the Atlantic to be first over the White House threshold. The Japanese Prime Minister has been twice, and put in not just dinner, but a round of golf. The Canadian Prime Minister and the German Chancellor were more reluctant guests, while China’s President, Xi Jinping, became an unexpected hit.

In the first three long months of Trump’s presidency, however, one major national leader has remained aloof. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has shown not the slightest inclination to bestir himself from the Kremlin, even with the promise of some Florida sun.

The two men have been in touch by phone, of course, and the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has just made the trip to Moscow, where he received a two-hour audience with the Russian President. But after some gentle kite-flying about an early summit in Helsinki, there is no sign of any direct encounter even in the planning. Asked whether Tillerson had broached a summit when he met Putin, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said, “No.”

So what has happened, if not to the great Trump-Putin love-in – the prospects for that were always exaggerated, especially by those who hated the idea – then to the rapprochement that Trump insisted he would try? How come it took so long even for the Secretary of State to make his way to Moscow? Was not Russia supposed to be Trump’s priority?

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