Only time will show how justified the Kremlin’s public bet on the current occupant of the White House turns out to be. On the eve of the meeting in Helsinki, Trump looked noticeably stronger and more confident than he did a year ago ahead of his meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. His support base has not collapsed, the economy is showing good results and a team is firming up of presidential aides who are acting more consistently and are devotedly loyal to their boss.
The Democrats pale in comparison. It appears they have not yet managed to grasp the lessons of their defeat in the 2016 election. A positive agenda for the country has not been formed, and the group of declared leaders has so far failed to impress. The prospect of impeaching Trump in this situation looks extremely unlikely. His reelection in 2020, on the other hand — which seemed utterly unthinkable a year ago — can no longer be excluded.
At the same time, it’s worth remembering that politics in the United States is a rollercoaster on which the position of those at the top — or those who aspire to get there — can change at dizzying speed. Trump’s speech at his joint press conference with Putin made headlines for him publicly doubting the competence and honesty of the American security services. The relationship between the intelligence agencies and the 45th U.S. president has been rocky right from the start, but if it deteriorates into an open (yet hidden) confrontation, that war could be dangerous not only for the head of state and the state itself, but for international security, too. Having publicly entered internal U.S. politics, Russia must be prepared for unpleasant surprises.
Trump said at the summit that he would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than risk peace in pursuit of politics. That’s a very commendable position, but we must keep in mind the possibility of failure and its likely consequences. We can only hope that Putin understands that. But he also probably understands that after Helsinki, Russia’s previous formal detachment from U.S. internal affairs is in tatters. For the foreseeable future, Russia has thrown its lot in with Trump.