Putin ‘had to keep explaining things to Trump’, ex-White House aide says
Vladimir Putin “had to keep explaining things” to Donald Trump when Trump was US president, the former White House aide Fiona Hill said.
Related: ‘Trump thought I was a secretary’: Fiona Hill on the president, Putin and populism
“Putin doesn’t like to do that,” Hill told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
“You could see that he got frustrated many times with President Trump. Even though he loves to be able to spin his own version of events, he wants to have predictability in the person that he’s engaging with.”
Under Trump, Hill was senior director for European and Russian affairs on the national security council. She is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
The British-born adviser come to prominence when she testified in Trump’s first impeachment for withholding military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to extract political dirt on opponents including Joe Biden.
Putin ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. Bloody fighting continues. Biden has committed to supporting Ukraine.
At the Chicago event, Hill said Putin “thought that somebody like Biden, who’s a trans-Atlanticist, who knows all about Nato, who actually knows where Ukraine is, and actually knows something about the history, and is very steeped in international affairs, would be the right person to engage with as opposed to somebody that you have to explain everything to all the time, honestly”.
The Russian president, Hill said, might still be “waiting for us to sue for peace, [to] negotiate away Ukraine”.
Trump and Republicans claim Putin would not have invaded if Trump was in power.
The Trump administration was dogged by investigations of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.
Trump was seen to be too close to Putin. Flashpoints included a Helsinki summit in July 2018 when the two leaders met alone but for translators and Trump said he believed Putin over his own intelligence services regarding election interference.
Hill was a co-author of a well-received book on Putin. Last year, promoting a memoir, There Is Nothing for You Here, she told the BBC that in Helsinki she considered faking a medical emergency to interrupt Trump’s remarks.
“My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?’” she said.
Related: There Is Nothing for You Here by Fiona Hill review – more than a White House memoir
Trump has attacked Hill publicly, calling her “a deep state stiff – with a nice accent”. In April, after Hill compared him to Putin, Trump told the New York Times: “She doesn’t know the first thing she’s talking about. If she didn’t have the accent she would be nothing.”
Regarding Putin’s view of Trump, in 2020 Hill told the Guardian: “Trump just wants to sit down with the guy, whoever it is, and create personal chemistry and then everyone else works out the details. He wanted to treat Putin the way he treated Xi [Jinping of China] or [Benjamin] Netanyahu [of Israel]. He wanted to be able to pick up the phone and talk to them.
“Putin doesn’t operate like that. Putin takes translators with him for every occasion. The Russians are incredibly organised. They take advantage of every opportunity, every vulnerability, every open door they can walk through.”