MSNBC's Richard Engel reminded us all exactly who Vladimir Putin was — and still is — and showed how the meeting with Donald Trump could be used to "manipulate, corrupt, and bully" the American president to Putin's own disturbing advantage.
It was clear from the start that Donald Trump would go exceedingly easy on Russian President Vladimir Putin — literally patting him on the back — during their first meeting of Trump's presidency.
But it was also obvious to anyone who has been paying attention, not just for the past year or so but for Putin's whole career, that Putin intended to use that meeting, and Trump's softness, to his own troubling ends.
As Shareblue's Kaili Joy Gray put it, "Putin was playing chess. Trump was simply getting played."
Trump used the meeting not to condemn Russia's interference in our election — interference which helped get Trump elected — but rather to further undermine the U.S. intelligence community's work on the subject.
And as MSNBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel explained succinctly, Putin knew exactly what he wanted from this meeting, and exactly how to attain it.
This meeting was "everything Putin could have asked for, and more," Engel declared, noting that it doesn't even matter if any of the agreements bear out, because Putin's goals were different.
The Russian strongman has wanted his country to be a "super power" again, "a country that cannot be ignored."
And this time, his target was the American president.
This is everything Putin could have asked for, and more. Today's meeting changed the world. It doesn't matter if any of these agreements hold. The Syrian cease fire probably won't, if past experience is anything to go by. It doesn't matter if the Ukraine envoy actually accomplishes anything. This meeting here in Germany matters because Putin has always wanted to make Russia a super power again, a country that cannot be ignored in the key decisions shaping the world. And today, President Trump gave that to him.
Today matters because Putin trained as a KGB agent to manipulate, corrupt, and bully his targets into doing his bidding. And today, many around the world saw Putin doing just that to an American president. People who know how Putin operates don't think for a second this meeting didn't go exactly as he planned it, that he always wanted it to go long, that he wanted to bait President Trump into trading horses. But there are costs of playing 'let's make a deal' with Vladimir Putin.
Those "costs" include America's diplomacy and sovereignty, our standing around the world — outside of Russia — and all of the devastating ripple effects of Trump's installation in the White House, that are already spreading out over the country.
If Trump continues to kowtow to Russia, those costs will only increase in scope and severity.
But for Putin, there are no costs; there are only whatever rewards his power-hungry mind hopes to gain through his friend in the Oval Office.
If Putin's meeting with Trump did indeed go "exactly as he planned it," that may be good news for Russia — but it is an ominous moment for the rest of the world.