U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, July 2017.
Carlos Barria / REUTERS

If U.S. President Donald Trump’s talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Friday revealed anything, it was that Putin is at the top of his game.

He has spent almost two decades trying to force the West to accept his conception of foreign policy as a nineteenth-century competition over spheres of influence, primarily by subverting Western interests and values—including through his invasion of Ukraine in 2014, his obstruction of Western actions in Syria with a murderous bombing campaign, and his meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year. All the while, he has sought validation for such actions by winning acceptance as a major player at the international table. When Trump and Putin met for their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg last week, that’s exactly what Trump gave him.

The meaningful handshake and conspiratorial denigration of American reporters

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  • GREGORY FEIFER is the interim executive director of the Institute of Current World Affairs and author of Russians: The People Behind the Power.
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