Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have had a rocky bromance, frequently trading compliments before their relationship hit a few rocks last week. But Trump’s newly named team of foreign advisors includes one expert who may bring them closer once again.
Carter Page is a former executive with Merrill Lynch who now runs his own international investment firm and teaches energy policy at Bard College. He is a Russia specialist highly critical of the US role in Ukraine, and with a long history of skepticism toward what he regards as unnecessarily antagonistic US policy toward Moscow.
Trump has called Russian president Vladimir Putin “a bright and talented person” with whom he would “get along very well.” Even if Page might not use the same words, that attitude would not differ materially from his own general view of Putin as someone with whom the West can do business.
When Page was with Merrill Lynch, he formed lasting relationships with his counterparts at Gazprom, the Russian natural gas giant, and has expressed the belief that the US could accomplish more in Russia relations by seeking a partnership than with threats.
In a 2014 piece he wrote for the Center for National Policy, a Washington think tank, Page argued that the US “instigated” the Ukrainian uprising in February 2014 that ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Page did not return phone, email, and text messages from Quartz, and it was not possible to confirm the degree to which he is involved with the Trump campaign. He has been active in Republican circles for many years, including with the McCain presidential campaign in 2008.
For months, Trump has rebuffed reporters who have asked for names of his advisers—quipping a few days ago that he is speaking with himself. But as he moves closer to winning the Republican presidential nomination, Trump is tacitly admitting that he needs to bring along establishment figures who could lend gravitas and counsel during the general election.
One DC establishment pillar is the Washington Post editorial board, which is where he finally provided the names of some advisers in a meeting today (March 21).
In the Post meeting, Trump pondered why Europe is not more active in attempting to resolve Ukraine’s standoff with Russia. “Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war with Russia?” Trump asked.
Trump said he favors a smaller US role within NATO—a position that Putin would no doubt support. “NATO is costing us a fortune,” he said.