Trump will continue to tweet, and he has invited Putin to Washington this fall. But if the Russians think there was a breakthrough on nuclear weapons, they’ll have to explain it to John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser and one of Washington’s foremost opponents of arms control. If they think Trump agreed to Putin’s plan for Syria, they’ll have to tell it to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, both of whom have repeatedly condemned Russia’s intervention.
Putin might check in with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who must have thought he had gotten everything he wanted from Trump during their Singapore summit last month. After Pompeo appeared for follow-up talks three weeks later, Pyongyang was left sputtering about “one-sided and robber-like” demands.
This is not to suggest Trump is pursuing a cleverly two-faced strategy designed to extract the maximum from Putin and Kim. Rather, in his ignorance and naive zeal to strike deals with strongmen, he is making actual accords impossible.