At Valdai Putin Treats Trump Respectfully
By Angela Stent

Last week’s fourteenth annual Valdai Club meeting in Sochi had the ambitious title “The World of the Future: Moving Through Conflict to Cooperation.” During its first few years, the Valdai Discussion Club—initially founded to provide foreign experts on Russia insights into Russian domestic and foreign policy—focused primarily on Russian developments. But, for the past few years discussion of Russian politics has been scant and the focus has been on global issues. This year, panels debated topics ranging from the conflict between rich and poor, between man and nature, and between “universalism” and “humanism,” to how prepared countries are for future challenges and the now-inevitable question “black swans.” There was only one panel on domestic politics, but the subject was not Russia. Instead, the topic focused on the United States, as in “America: What’s Next?” Myself and others were asked to discuss “the outcome of the political crisis in the United States.”

The highlight of the Valdai conferences is always Vladimir Putin’s speech. This year he was joined on the stage by former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Chinese tech-super- entrepreneur Jack Ma, founder of the internet giant Alibaba. Putin, echoing themes that had already been raised at the meeting, focused on the heightened danger of war, particularly nuclear war. Arguing that Russia had fully complied with all the provisions of the arms-control agreements it has signed with the United States, he claimed that what he described as the U.S failure to fulfill its obligation under the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement was “perplexing and alarming.” While criticizing the North Korean nuclear weapons program, he called for dialogue.