Russia chalks up summit as a win for Putin

Russia chalks up summit as a win for Putin

Russia chalks up summit as a win for PutinThe praise from Moscow’s elite for the President contrasts sharply with the reaction in Washington

Russia’s political and media establishment heralded talks between the Russian and U.S. leaders in Helsinki as a victory for President Vladimir Putin in breaking down Western resolve to treat Russia as a pariah.

“The West’s attempts to isolate Russia failed,” read the headline on a report on Monday’s summit meeting in state-run newspaper Rossiisskaya Gazeta.

The praise from Russia’s elite for Mr. Putin’s performance at the summit contrasted sharply with the reaction in Washington where U.S. President Donald Trump’s own Republican party accused him of failing to stand up to him.

No breakthroughs

In Moscow, there was a recognition that the summit did not produce any breakthroughs on issues such as Syria, Ukraine or arms control. The Kremlin, in the run-up to the summit, had played down expectations of major progress.

Instead, the focus was on the symbolism of the leader of the world’s biggest superpower sitting down one-on-one with Mr. Putin after four years of international isolation triggered by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

“It’s funny to recall the nonsense from [Barack] Obama et al about Russia being a weak ‘regional power’,” Alexey Pushkov, a member of the Upper House of the Russian Parliament, referring to former U.S. President Barack Obama.

“The attention of the whole world is focussed today on Helsinki and it’s crystal clear to everyone: the fate of the world is being decided between Russia and the United States, the leaders of the two major powers of our planet are meeting,” Mr. Pushkov said in a Twitter post on Monday.

Asked by reporters in Helsinki how the talks had gone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “Magnificent… Better than super.”

The opportunity for Mr. Putin to present himself as an equal to the U.S. president was a major objective for the Kremlin as it prepared for the summit, according to people close to the Russian foreign policy establishment.

He has based a large part of his domestic appeal — both to ordinary people and the elites — on a narrative about restoring the international heft that Russia lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Russia’s rouble currency was up 0.4% against the dollar in Monday trading.

Market analysts said the fact the summit happened was a positive for Russian assets, offsetting the negative effect from a drop in oil prices.

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