Masha Gessen writes: While American news media offered differing interpretations of the meeting between President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, debating whether Mr. Trump had shown resolve or had fallen into a trap set by Mr. Putin, the Russian press disagreed on only one thing: the proper translation of the word “tremendous,” which Mr. Trump used to describe the meeting. Headlines in state-owned media, state-dominated media, and the lone independent Web-based TV channel offered translations that hewed closer to “grand,” “outstanding,” or “amazing.” Those distinctions aside, all agreed: The meeting was a triumph.
Mr. Putin has for years — 17 years, to be exact, for this is how long he has been in power — been clear about what he wanted from his relationship with the United States president: He wants to be treated as an equal partner on the world stage and not to be questioned about or pressed on the Russian government’s actions inside Russia or in what he considers his sphere of influence. Despite the friendly tenor of Mr. Putin’s relationship with George W. Bush and the offer of a “reset” made by Barack Obama’s administration, Mr. Putin never achieved his objective — until now. His fourth American president has given him exactly what he wanted: respect, camaraderie and freedom from criticism.
The one accomplishment of the meeting — a limited cease-fire in Syria — is exactly what Mr. Putin wanted. Not the cease-fire, that is: He wanted an acknowledgment that the United States and Russia are equal negotiating parties in the Syrian conflict. He spent years cajoling and then blackmailing the Obama administration into accepting Russia’s decisive role in the Middle East. Now, Mr. Trump has handed him much more than that. He has demonstrated that Russia and the United States can negotiate Syrian life and death without involving any Syrians. [Continue reading…]