Trump, Putin talk

Trump, Putin talk

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are set to become telephone buddies on Saturday. President Trump has repeatedly insisted his administration

Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are set to become telephone buddies on Saturday.

President Trump has repeatedly insisted his administration will improve ties with Russia but has given little in the way of a policy outline. Indeed, the president’s cabinet is a veritable hodge-podge of pro- and anti-Russia proponents. Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s chief strategist, is believed to support lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Russia after its seizure of Crimea. On the other hand, Defence Secretary James Mattis has advocated the new administration tow a much tougher line on the Kremlin.

For his part, Mr Putin has a history of confounding US presidents. After meeting the Russian leader for the first time in 2001, then President George W Bush proclaimed he had looked him in the eye and was “able to get a sense of his soul”. Bush’s soul-peering did little to prevent Russia’s invasion of Georgia – a key US ally in the southern Caucasus. President Obama also attempted to court the Kremlin after taking power in 2009 with his infamous “reset” policy – an unmitigated failure.

Whether Donald Trump is the bear-whispering deal-maker he claims to be is yet to be seen. Saturday’s phone conversation may provide some insight.