But Putin does have a way of making trouble — an invasion here, disrupting an election there, the occasional assassination. If he was hoping that helping Trump get elected would produce much in the way of tangible gains, he’s probably disappointed. The relationship between the two countries has only gotten worse despite Trump’s frequent insistence that it would be great if we got along. Much of that is a result of nearly everyone in the American government — Congress, the foreign policy establishment, sometimes his own aides — going against Trump’s apparent wishes. Congress passed new sanctions on Russia last year (Trump reluctantly signed the bill). In December the administration approved the sale of arms to Ukraine, to defend itself from Russian aggression. Along with 20 other countries, we just expelled Russian diplomats to express outrage at Moscow allegedly poisoning a Russian defector in England with a deadly nerve agent.
In short, Trump hasn’t delivered for Putin, whatever either one of them might have hoped for. It’s partly a result of Trump’s inability to overcome the forces pushing for a firmer stance against Russia, but it’s also because he just doesn’t care enough about all that dreary policy stuff to follow through on his desires. For him, the presidency is personal — he thinks he can talk Kim Jong Un out of his nuclear weapons, and he probably cares far more about whether Vladimir Putin likes him than about the details of the American position toward Russia.