Trump Gave Putin Exactly What He Wanted


What was entirely absent from the briefing, the reporters’ questions, and, it is probably safe to assume, the two-hour-and-15-minute meeting itself, was any discussion or even acknowledgment of any of the following:

■ Russia has intensified its crackdown on dissidents. Last month, more than 1,700 people were arrested for peaceful protest — the largest number of arrests in a single day in decades.

■ Aleksei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who plans to challenge Mr. Putin in the 2018 presidential election, has been attacked physically and is facing a slew of trumped-up charges. The night before the summit, his Moscow headquarters were raided and one of the staff members was beaten by police. The day after, as Mr. Navalny’s supporters campaigned around the country, dozens of them were arrested — more than 30 people in Moscow alone.

■ More than a hundred gay men have been targeted by purges in Chechnya. Three deaths have been confirmed. Several men are still missing, and dozens more are in hiding elsewhere in Russia. In response to earlier international pressure, the government in Moscow has promised to investigate the matter, but nothing is known about the progress of this investigation.

■ A Moscow court has reached a guilty verdict in the case of five men accused of killing opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in 2015. The court failed to interrogate their motives, however; nothing is known about who ordered the hit.

■ The number of political prisoners in Russia is growing. They include people arrested for peaceful protest and even for statements made on social media. They also include Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year sentence on trumped-up charges of terrorism.

■ Most recently, law enforcement targeted a Moscow contemporary theater called Gogol Center. Former managing director Aleksei Malobrodsky is in jail. He is accused of embezzling state funds earmarked for a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which the prosecution falsely claims was never staged.

Since at least the 1970s, Russian leaders and Soviet leaders before them had to face questions about political freedoms and human rights whenever they met with their American counterparts. The Trump administration has ended that tradition. In May, Mr. Tillerson, in a rare public statement on policy, said that American economic and strategic interests had to take precedence over human rights advancement. When he traveled to Moscow in April, he declined to meet with human rights activists, breaking with decades of tradition. It is no surprise that Mr. Trump broached none of these issues. No wonder Mr. Putin and his news media view the meeting as a triumph.

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