Research News

Expert: Meeting with Russia early in presidency would be a mistake

Thomas Alan Schwartz
Thomas Alan Schwartz (Steve Green / Vanderbilt University)


There might be a temptation, but it would be a “big mistake” for President-elect Donald Trump to meet with Vladimir Putin of Russia early in his administration, says Vanderbilt presidential historian Tom Schwartz.

“Because of his expressions of admiration for Putin, Trump might be tempted to seek an early summit meeting with the Russian leader, and perhaps even his own version of the ‘reset’ with Russia which the Obama administration attempted,” said Schwartz, professor of history at Vanderbilt. It would be major mistake, he added.

Reasons Schwartz cited for delaying a meeting with Putin until at least the fall of 2017:

  • President Kennedy’s disastrous summit meeting early in his administration with Premier Nikita Khrushchev. It “turned into a disastrous confrontation that intensified the conflict;”
  • The initial focus of the new president should be the economy, health care and shoring up relationships with our allies; and
  • “The issues dividing the United States and Russia are significant and very complex. The temptation to try and resolve them all in one grand bargain might cause serious problems from the Ukraine and Crimea to the issues involved in the Syrian civil war and the broader Middle East.”

Schwartz is the co-editor with Matthias Schulz of The Strained Alliance: U.S.-European Relations from Nixon to Carter, (Cambridge University Press, 2009). He is currently working on two books: a biography of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, tentatively entitled, Henry Kissinger and the Dilemmas of American Power and The Long Twilight Struggle: A Concise History of the Cold War.