Moscow is not necessarily focused on tangible deliverables from the summit. Rather, it would like to create a narrative that would allow Trump to tout the meeting as a triumph for U.S. interests, a triumph that justifies his taking further steps to repair the relationship, even though the U.S. would get little in return.

The Kremlin does not really expect sanctions relief. It knows that Trump’s hands are tied by Congress. Plus, it has adjusted to the current level of sanctions. What it wants to prevent is an escalation of U.S. pressure, or a repeat of what happened in April, when U.S. Treasury sanctions started to dictate the ownership structure of major Russian companies. This undermines Putin’s claim of Russia’s full sovereignty. Moscow’s main aim, which was derived after carefully observing Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, is to create momentum that would make it politically painful and personally humiliating for Trump to revert to confrontation.

Moscow wants to keep Trump so deeply invested in dialogue that he becomes reticent to admit the whole endeavor is a failure. The idea is to lock Trump into a policy and propaganda framework that would eventually force him into major U.S. concessions on issues of interest to Russia. Putin sees how easily Kim Jong Un has forced the U.S. to soften its negotiating demands in order to maintain the illusion of Trump’s success in Singapore.