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The summit offered up a graphic reaffirmation of what was already known


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THE story of the meeting between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has a beginning and an end, but no middle.

It began with a statement from the American president. The lowly state of Russo-American relations, he tweeted, was not the fault of the Russian government for seizing Crimea, shooting down a passenger airliner, interfering in America’s presidential election or using a banned nerve agent to kill citizens of a close ally on its own soil. No, it was the fault “of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt”.

It ended with a joint press conference that John McCain, a Republican senator, described as, “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

In the middle was a void, in which the two presidents met with nobody else in the room but their interpreters. For those who watch Mr Trump daily and have observed his habit of being confrontational with other people when at a safe distance and then seeking to please them when face-to-face, this encounter seemed freighted with risk. Would he give away Crimea by mistake? Would he commit to some Russian-led military initiative in Syria? In fact this part seems to have gone relatively well. Both presidents reported that they talked about nuclear weapons, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) which covers short- and medium-range nuclear missiles. The chances of them signing an extension to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) are perhaps greater now than they were before the meeting. That is not nothing.

Yet it is hard to pinpoint a decisive change in American foreign policy that came out of the Helsinki meeting. What it offered instead was a reaffirmation of things that America already knew about its president. Mr Trump thinks that the world benefits when America and Russia have close relations, and that “the United States has been foolish” on this point. He takes the judgment of America’s intelligence services that Russia intervened in the 2016 election campaign to be a personal insult, an accusation that he needed outside help to beat Hillary Clinton. He will readily believe the word of a former KGB agent over the views of the CIA or FBI on this point. Americans who question this are liable to be described by their president as enemies of the people. The probe run by Robert Mueller is “a disaster for our country”. It was jarring to see Mr Trump say these things standing on a podium next to Mr Putin, but they are all things he has said before, countless times. This is not a performance. He really means it.

One part, near the end of the press conference, is worth quoting at length to give an unmediated sample of the president’s thinking: Superga 2754 LAMEW women's Shoes (High-top Trainers) in Silver,Poste Fiorello Single Monk Brogue BLACK LEATHER,Nike Dunk Low - GrijsBonanza (Global) New Handmade Monk Double Strap Leather Shoes, Men Dress Shoes, Formal ShoesNew Balance 577 MK - Groen,Altberg Boots AltBerg Sneeker AQUA, Black - 13.5 mediumSergio Rossi Boots - Women Sergio Rossi Boots online on United Kingdom - 11527609KV, Swedish hasbeens JODHPUR women's Low Ankle Boots in Vienty natural loop tapes women's Sandals in Dumond MESTICO women's Court Shoes in Brown,Office Archie- Casual Mid Western BLACK LEATHERSUEDE WITH SILVER STUDS,598 - 60 Nappa Gold 6cm heel - Nappa Gold - UK 5,Jewel Shoes - Black - Extra Wide Fit - 7,Adidas Stan Smith CF Strap - Wit,Freed Foxtrot Ballroom Dance Shoe by Dance Steps in 5 Colours - Silver - UK Size 7,Tom Ford Boots - Women Tom Ford Boots online on United Kingdom - Airstep / A.S.98 KOKKA women's Sandals in Black, MTNG MUSTANG flat sandal women's Mules / Casual Shoes in Brown, Helly Hansen GERTON men's Shoes (High-top Trainers) in Brown,FC60 - Compositelite Operis Boot - Black/Orange - EU 44Nueva Epoca - Christina - UK 3.5,Athletic Propulsion Labs APL TechLoom Pro (Black / Gold / Silver) PRE-ORDER-Black / Gold / Silver-6,Saucony Shadow Original - Blauw,Footsure Dr Martens Black / 11,Alaïa Court - Women Alaïa Courts online on United Kingdom - 11508880XJ, Betty London EXIBOLE women's Sandals in Brown, Andrea Conti CASTEL women's Low Ankle Boots in Black, Polo Ralph Lauren ODIE men's Shoes (High-top Trainers) in Brown,D.a.t.e. Newman Camo Army Rubber Covered Leather Sneaker,526 - 60 Satin Bronze 6cm heel - Satin Bronze - UK 6, For readers who are rubbing their eyes at this point, it is important not to lose sight of a few things that will endure once this summit is over. Mr Mueller’s probe has gathered so much detail about the activities of the GRU that its future activities would seem to be compromised. Russia’s economy is weak, and American sanctions will not be lifted by the Senate anytime soon. Some of America’s institutions are not doing their job. But some of them quietly are.

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