When Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki this week, it might have been useful if they had had a written contract to reference their previous understandings. No such written contract exists, but if it did, it might read like this imaginary July 2016 letter from Putin to Trump:
In consideration of mutual objectives and the actions set forth below, we agree to work with you during the pending election and afterwards to make the world better by fostering improved relationships between our countries, each of us undertaking the following:
1. We will influence the election in your favor by actively and creatively using our social media capabilities to diminish support for your opponent and create a drumbeat of negative disinformation about her.
2. Using our intelligence-gathering resources and contacts, we will secure inside information about your campaign opponent and will release it at the best times to secure the maximum negative results by embarrassing the candidate, her staff, and her party, thereby destroying confidence and diminishing support for her.
3. We will provide your campaign with other negative information about your opponent for you to use as you see fit.
4. We will continue to keep secret any damaging information about you that we have collected over the years. We plan to provide this assistance without requiring specific items or actions from you in consideration for our belief that your victory and your administration would be better for both countries. However, we confirm to you our hope that upon the success of your campaign you will endeavor to give attention to the following:
1. You would use your best efforts to remove sanctions and restrictions that have been unfairly applied against us in retaliation for our actions that were necessary to protect our people and our economy and to respond to aggressive threats from your country and its allies. We understand that the efforts with respect to restrictions will have to be done delicately and over time. But in light of the harm they unnecessarily cause our people and our economy, we hope you will be diligent.
2. We hope you will understand and respect actions we have taken or may take to protect the rights, safety and aspirations of people in adjoining countries that were formerly under our control and who are bound to us by common language and heritage. Specifically, you will understand the necessity for our retention of sovereignty over such historic territories that have recently come under our control. In addition, we hope you will prepare your country to understand the justification for our actions.
3. In exchange for our agreement to permit the reunification of Germany in 1990, your country and its allies promised that NATO would refrain from expanding into Eastern Europe. That promise was broken. As a result, NATO’s military infrastructure has encircled our country. Almost every one of NATO’s actions in regions close to our country is aimed at thwarting our interests. Your historic skepticism about NATO puts you in a position to explain to the American people the importance of dealing with this unnecessary threat to our country. We expect you will help bring about changes that reorient NATO to eliminate its threat to us.
4. You will respect and cooperate with our anti-terrorist efforts in Syria and other Middle East countries.
5. Understanding that it is in the interest of both our countries to deal with the European countries on a nation-to-nation basis, we expect you will support our efforts to lead Western European countries away from the dominating and counterproductive trade and economic blocs. These blocs work against both our countries’ aspirations to make favorable trade and other arrangements with individual nations. We hope you will help us break up these detrimental attachments.
Agreed: July 2016