URI Prof. Unpacks Trump's Relationship With Russia And Putin

Jul 27, 2018

Russia and Vladimir Putin loom large over U.S. politics these days, between allegations of collusion and election meddling. But what are Americans to make of Russia?

The recent summit between Putin and President Donald Trump raised even more questions, after Trump appeared to publicly question U.S. intelligence.

For insight on the current relationship between the U.S. and Russia, RIPR host Dave Fallon talks with University of Rhode Island Professor Nicolai Petro, who joined us via Skype from Ukraine, where he is spending the summer.

Note: This interview was recorded before the White House walked back a proposed second summit between Trump and Putin for the fall.

What, if anything, did the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin accomplish?

It was a good preliminary to a start of a discussion. But for this to come to some concrete result will take a lot more than meeting of two leaders. People on the American side and Russian side have to be given very different marching orders for anything positive to happen.

On the criticized, private nature of Trump and Putin’s initial meeting

My basic feeling is these are two responsible adults and they can be allowed to be able to speak to each other in private they don't need chaperoning.

As much time as possible, leaders try to have time together with each other so that they can get feel for each other. Whether they can trust each other - and a sense of what other person wants to aspire to beyond formalities.

If you just stick to formalities, hard to see if person you're dealing with, will keep their word or not.

Do American politicians have an outdated view of Russia?

It’s one of lingering elements of intellectual baggage we inherited from the Cold War. It’s been a quarter-century since the Soviet Union collapsed. The Communist party, although represented in country, is not a national force anymore. This is simply a different country.

Catching up on the situation in Ukraine, with a new election season ramping up

It’s the beginning of the 2019 campaign season. Presidential elections take place in March, parliamentary elections take place in October.

The current government is extremely unpopular. But we’re in a catch-22 situation since Ukrainian political leadership doesn’t give the possibility of an alternative to the current government.

On Western perception that Russia has a major influence on Ukrainian politics

In Ukraine, everything possible to cut ties with Russia has been done: no Russian television programs, no Russian politicians are allowed in Ukraine.

However, what that does not affect is people’s natural affinity for Russia. And although it’s not possible to view Russian television on cable channels, you can if you have enough money to buy a satellite.