Edward Lucas is a senior editor at The Economist, where he was the Moscow bureau chief from 1998 to 2002. He is also senior vice president at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
In his best-seller “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump makes an important point: Never show your negotiating partner that you are desperate.
The thinking in the White House is that Vladimir Putin is eager to emerge from his international isolation. He will do a lot for a handshake.
The only real problem for the US administration is how to placate critics, who would regard any deal as selling out to Russia.
This weekend’s protests in Russia underline that impression.
Putin is facing the biggest upsurge in opposition in more than five years. Crucially, the protests involved many young people and happened in cities right across Russia, rather than only in the opposition’s heartland of Moscow. Police brutality and clumsiness in dealing with the protests have stoked the sense of outrage that many Russians feel with their rulers’ corruption and incompetence.
Putin may indeed react to the protests by chucking his hapless Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, to the wolves. Medvedev’s alleged grotesquely extravagant property empire (private ski slope, helicopter pads and even a duck house) was the subject of a scorching documentary by the opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Medvedev’s spokeswoman told state-run news agency RIA Novosti: “It is pointless to comment on the propagandistic outbursts of a convicted opposition figure, who has already announced he is running some kind of election campaign and fighting against the authorities.”
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