In short order, the president of the United States is going to shake hands with the president of Russia. They’ll sit down in a room and start talking about, oh, this and/or that.
Here will be the perfect opportunity for Donald J. Trump to look straight into Vladimir Putin’s steely eyes and give him holy hell for what numerous U.S. intelligence agencies have said: that Russian computer hackers sought to meddle in the U.S. presidential election this past year — and that they did so on orders from Putin himself.
Is this going to occur? Will the U.S. president have the moxie, the savvy, the guts to face down this other head of state?
And to think that such a discussion would just be a starting point in these two men’s relationship.
Of course, I am not privy to what the president will say to Putin. I am entitled, though, to offer an opinion or two on what he should say. My gut — along with my proverbial trick knee — tell me he needs to get directly to that point immediately.
History tells us that U.S.-Russian summit meetings are fraught with peril. In 1961, another rookie U.S. president traveled to Vienna to meet with the head of what then was known as the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev thought he had taken the full measure of John F. Kennedy; he pushed the young president around, bullied him, threatened him.
It was reported at the time that President Kennedy made too many rookie mistakes in his first face-to-face meeting with the cantankerous Soviet leader. It turned out that the world’s leading communist made the rookie error.
Khrushchev miscalculated badly Kennedy’s resolve. The Soviets started building those missile bases the following year in Cuba. The president got word of it, huddled with his national security team, made a decision and then told the world of our reaction and what the cost would be to the Soviets if they were to launch an attack against any nation in the Western Hemisphere.
The cost? Annihilation.
Check out JFK’s speech here:
Donald Trump isn’t prone to study history, so it’s not likely he’ll be interested in understanding that dangerous chapter.
The Russian meddling in our election, though, is on the minds of a lot of smart folks. It’s in all the papers, you know?
My hope would be for the president to talk directly and — in diplomatic parlance — “frankly” to his Russian colleague directly about what has consumed this nation since the election.
My fear is that Donald Trump will choke.
Prove me wrong, Mr. President.