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How The Trump-Putin Summit Is Being Received In Russia


The Helsinki summit has already caused a lot of outrage here in Washington over President Trump's willingness to believe Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia did not interfere in U.S. elections. Of course, Putin is also playing to a Russian audience. And to find out how this is playing there, we are joined by NPR's Lucian Kim, who is in Helsinki. Hi, Lucian.


SHAPIRO: You've been monitoring reaction back in Russia. Do people there see this summit as a big victory for their president, Putin?

KIM: Well, Putin's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, already gave a response. He said this summit was great, better than super. And you have state media really playing this up as a big international event that has captured the world's attention.

And, of course, they're right. Only in Russia, this is, you know, about Putin standing firm, not bowing down. And here, you have the American president eating humble pie about the foolishness and stupidity of past U.S. administrations.

So I asked Alexander Gabuev - he's with the Carnegie Moscow Center - if they're cracking open the champagne in the Kremlin. And this is what he had to say.

ALEXANDER GABUEV: I think that the Kremlin can be pretty positive short-term because the public image of this summit is that Vladimir Putin behaves very presidentially. He has self-control, discipline. And he's polite, but also trolls the Americans back.

KIM: So Gabuev actually went on to say that in the long term, Russians could feel kind of hangover since both leaders today failed to agree on any big strategic issues. And there could be negative fallout, as you mentioned, in the U.S. about the summit.

As to trolling, what he meant was Putin's suggestion that Russia could help the Mueller investigation. Of course, that's not going to happen.

But this is really kind of the standard, classic Putin reply to any accusation against the Kremlin. Whether this is the poisoning of a former double agent in Britain or doping during the Olympics or shooting down a Malaysian passenger plane, the answer is always, we want to help investigate, but nobody wants our help.

SHAPIRO: Right. This was the proposal that President Trump seemed to react positively to - that intelligence agents from both sides cooperate with each other on this investigation. So you characterized President Trump as being seen as eating humble pie. Is that the way Russian media are portraying this as well?

KIM: Oh, certainly. I mean, they're actually quite gleeful about this. Actually, one of the statements that Trump made at the beginning of the summit was that he would look forward to an extraordinary relationship in the future with Putin.

And Alexei Pushkov, a senator in the Russian parliament, tweeted that, exactly, that's the nightmare of Trump's opponents back in the U.S. and in Europe. And this is exactly the reason why they were so against holding this summit.

SHAPIRO: Some commentators in the U.S. have been talking about the events leading up to this press conference - President Putin showing up an hour late, President Trump whispering, thank you, to him before their remarks began. Is this something that Russians are discussing as well?

KIM: Well, they're very much used to seeing their own president sort of in control. Now as far as coming an hour late, what's funny is that, actually, that's not very late for - by Putin's standards. He often turns up much later than that. So this was actually, if you're going to interpret it as a sign, that he was quite eager for this.

SHAPIRO: And so what do you expect this all means for the future of the Trump-Putin relationship?

KIM: The analyst Alexander Gabuev that I talked to was actually very cautious. He said there are still unresolved issues, like a new nuclear arms deal, Syria, Ukraine. And they were really papered over today.

He says what we need to look for is the midterm elections in the United States. If Trump comes out with a strong result and looks confident, then they can think about a second big meeting.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR Moscow correspondent Lucian Kim speaking with us from Helsinki. Thanks, Lucian.

KIM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lucian Kim is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. He has been reporting on Europe and the former Soviet Union for the past two decades.
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