Why Was Putin Late To Meet Trump? The Russian President Is Notoriously Tardy
Some people just have a certain way they like to make an entrance, and by the looks of things, Vladimir Putin is one of those people. Specifically, he often arrives late when there's a fellow world leader waiting. It's fitting, then, that Putin was late to meet Donald Trump, arriving in Helsinki 30 minutes after his original schedule said he would be there.
According to The Independent, Putin is frequently late for meetings with other world leaders. The 30 minutes he made Trump wait are quite short in comparison to the four hours that German Chancellor Angela Merkel once waited, or the three-plus hours that Ukrainian and Belarusian politicians have had to wait. President Obama once had to wait 40 minutes for his Russian counterpart; Putin even made the queen of England wait 15 minutes once.
What's unclear, though, is why Putin's punctuality is so severely lacking when it comes to such high-profile diplomatic events. While there is no concrete evidence to confirm this, The Hill notes that Putin's tardiness could be one of the "tricks up his sleeve" that the former KGB agent employs in his negotiating. It could be a sort of psychological game, meant to throw the other person off his or her game.
KGB agents, of course, had to be notoriously calculating and well-trained in the arts of manipulation, and Putin had a long career as a KGB agent before he entered the realm of politics. As Business Insider stated, he entered the Soviet Union's spy service immediately after finishing his education, and it was a dream that he'd held since childhood. It wouldn't be at all out of the ordinary for these techniques that Putin learned as a young man to still inform his methods today.
Besides the late arrivals, The Hill noted another example of some potential psychological manipulation on the part of the Russian president. In 2007, Putin, a great lover of dogs, brought his black Labrador, Koni, to a meeting with Merkel — who is famously afraid of dogs. He later told a German newspaper that he didn't mean to frighten her, but the photos that came out of the meeting appear to show a satisfied Putin and a fearful Merkel.
"I wanted to do something nice for her," Putin said, according to CNN's translation of the German interview. "When I found out that she doesn't like dogs, of course I apologized."
Merkel and Putin, who both speak each other's native languages fluently and have long careers in politics, are otherwise well prepared to meet with each other. Merkel even grew up in East Germany, as the BBC wrote, only hours from where Putin was stationed as a KGB agent abroad. With Trump, of course, it's another story. Trump has always been complimentary of Putin, even after Russia led the far-ranging cyberattacks on the 2016 American elections. Putin also surely saw reports like the one from ABC News before the meeting with Trump, saying that Trump had hardly prepared for the meeting at all. Perhaps the 30-minute delay coming from Putin's side was a subtle message from the Russian president about who had control over the situation.
Or, as the Associated Press wrote, Putin's habitual tardiness may just be a "personal trait" of his, and may not have anything to do with strategy. Given Putin's history as a KGB agent, though, observers are unlikely to ever find out specifics of his strategy, as Putin himself would never outwardly explain them. And Trump, as The Guardian noted, still managed to arrive at Helsinki's Presidential Palace later than Putin did, even after Putin's late arrival to the city — so perhaps the purposeful tardiness went both ways.