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Tuesday 31 March 2020

Summit fever: Trump reaches for big moment with Putin

Trump is ever the showman and insistent on establishing closer ties with Moscow. So he overruled his advisers and demanded the rituals and pageantry of a formal summit

Editorials

In India

Helsinki: Although President Donald Trump has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice before, he is eager to recreate in Finland the heady experience that he had last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

 

And that means a summit that becomes a mass media event complete with powerful presidential images.

Trump is ever the showman and insistent on establishing closer ties with Moscow. So he overruled his advisers and demanded the rituals and pageantry of a formal summit.

Trump had boasted to confidants about the number of cameras in Singapore, claiming it dwarfed coverage of the Oscars, according to a person familiar with his thinking who wasn’t authorized to discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Though Trump originally expressed concern that Helsinki was not glamorous enough and he favored hosting Putin at the White House, the president was reassured by aides that it would be an effective backdrop.

Long believing in the power of personal connections, he has insisted to aides that it was essential to sit down with Putin to establish a rapport.

“He’s been very nice to me the times I’ve met him. I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor,” Trump said about Putin last week. “You know, somebody was saying, ‘Is he an enemy?’ No, he’s not my enemy. ‘Is he a friend?’ No, I don’t know him well enough.”

The president is drawing on his experiences as a marketer and salesman, which left him convinced that his mastery of powerful images has been essential to his stunning political rise.

The president has told advisers that the Singapore diplomacy made him look like a take-charge president. And it was not lost on him that his poll numbers received a temporary bump after the meeting.

With the same attention to detail that he devoted to campaign ads, Trump masterminded many of the looks for his meeting with Kim, including the leaders’ dramatic initial greeting and handshake and, later, their one-on-one time.

At one point, he startled the Secret Service by giving Kim an impromptu tour of some mighty American machinery — the presidential limousine known as “The Beast.”

Though the results from the North Korea summit are debatable, Trump has told confidants he believed it was a masterstroke.

Six outside advisers and current and former White House officials contributed to this account; most spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

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