6 April 2017

A clue to near-term US-Russia relations

By Elisabeth Eaves

Been meaning to leaf through that 500-page profile of Vladimir Putin by the White House’s Russia expert? In case it slipped to the bottom of your list, the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada read it for you and distills what he learned in a new review.

The book is Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, and its coauthor, Fiona Hill, started her new job this week as senior director for Europe and Russia in the White House National Security Council.

At a moment of great uncertainty about the future of US-Russia relations, any record of Hill’s thinking on Putin may be the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. She doesn’t sound like she would encourage the sort of heedless rapprochement that her new boss, US President Donald Trump, hinted at in earlier years when he praised Putin and expressed hope that the Russian president might become his "new best friend."

Writing in the Bulletin last year, Hill called Putin a “one-man show” who trusts no one, but is expert at using other people’s weaknesses to manipulate them. “One of his main skills is to dissemble—to lie,” she wrote. Which isn’t to say that some sort of cooperation would be off the table under a Hill plan. “To negotiate, you have to talk, even to those you do not like, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Publication Name: 
The Washington Post