Trump-Putin summit: Russian praise for 'outmanoeuvring' Trump

By Steven Rosenberg
BBC News, Moscow

Media caption,
The moment President Trump meets counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump is facing a storm of criticism in America for his performance in Helsinki. His Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is faring rather better.

Back home in Russia, political figures have been lining up to praise the results of the Helsinki summit.

"This is the first important step towards establishing a political dialogue," concluded Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the Upper House of the Russian parliament.

"We saw two leaders who wanted to come together to find common ground," noted senior Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev.

The pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda consulted a body language expert in an effort to portray President Putin as the stronger leader.

"When he shakes hands, Donald Trump normally extends an open palm to trick his opponent into believing he is open for contact. Then he drags his opponent's hand towards him to put them off balance.

"But in Helsinki he shook Putin's hand quite normally, without any cunning moves. It reflects the results of the meeting and what has happened over the last year: Trump has failed to dominate Putin."

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The tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets claimed that "a quiet, modest Trump had paled in comparison with Vladimir Putin. It's clear that Putin outmanoeuvred the US president. That is cause for pride, but also for alarm. Because outmanoeuvring Trump does not mean he outmanoeuvred the US political class. I fear it won't be long before Washington responds".

That highlights a potential problem for the Kremlin post-Helsinki.

Mr Trump may, on paper, be the perfect American president for Moscow. At the news conference in Helsinki, he may have sided with the Kremlin over his own intelligence agencies on the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. He may have declined to blame Moscow alone for the poor state of US-Russian relations. He may have pledged that his administration will work with Russia to resolve all their differences.

But will Mr Trump be in a position to deliver?

His comments in Helsinki have sparked such anger in America that the US political elite is likely to view any attempt by the Trump administration to mend fences with Moscow with the deepest suspicion.

Former CIA director John Brennan called President Trump's news conference with Vladimir Putin "nothing short of treasonous".

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The top Republican in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, publicly contradicted Mr Trump, claiming: "There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world… the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally."

Republican Senator John McCain described Donald Trump's performance in Helsinki as "disgraceful".

Add to that the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the US election, and it becomes clear that, in this febrile atmosphere, an American president who wants to "get along with Russia" has little room for manoeuvre.

Media caption,
The ways Trump and Putin see eye to eye

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