We have one thing to offer Putin that he truly craves — legitimacy, both at home and abroad. That is what an understanding with America would give him, and in return we’ll want an end to Russian military sales to Iran and support for our withdrawal from the nuclear deal with that country.
If Putin wants legitimacy, that’s the price of admission. It’s time for him to choose sides.
Does that mean we’re to take a leap of faith over this? In a May 2016 speech Trump recognized that some people say you can’t trust the Russians. But I intend to find out, he added. As we engage with Putin, then, we’ll see if he amends his thuggish ways.
For while Putin is indeed a thug, it’s important to distinguish between intelligent and stupid thugs. An intelligent thug misbehaves only when he can get away with it, and provided we don’t flinch — as Obama did with his red line — we can enter into an entente with the Russians that over time is self-enforcing.