Ukrainian government soldiers from battalion “Donbass” rest at their positions in village Mariinka near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. The Red Cross will lead an international humanitarian aid operation into Ukraine’s conflict-stricken province of Luhansk with assistance from Russia, the European Union and the United States, Ukraine said Monday.(AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)


Yesterday, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, in a closed door session with Russian diplomats, said that one of the propositions he had floated to President Trump in Helsinki was allowing for a referendum in Eastern Ukraine to decide the political future of those areas contested by Russian astroturf militias and the Ukrainian armed forces. As always, we don’t know for a fact that this conversation, either in Helsinki or Moscow, takes place because the source for the article is “according to two people who attended Putin’s closed-door speech on Thursday.” But let’s play along and assume it is real.

I don’t blame Putin for making the pitch. Trump seemed prone to ignore the Russian annexation of Crimea, also done by referendum, and he probably thought he could make a case that the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region should be solved via referendum rather than continuing the Minsk Protocols. As they say, any time you’re making a major purchase (on in a salary negotiation) and the other guy doesn’t laugh in your face when you make your offer, then you didn’t ask for enough money…or your are paying too much, depending upon which side of the table you’re on.

Now the White House has weighed in:

I’m not opposed to personal negotiating sessions between world leaders. I think the world would be a much more stable place of the actual leaders were setting the pace rather than delegating foreign policy to a permanently ensconced bureaucracy. (I also think the demands by Democrats to interrogate Trump’s interpreter are bizarre and patently unconstitutional.) But when you’re dealing with a reptile like Putin, it is important that people know what you talked about. Fast. Otherwise you can bet he’s going to put his spin on the conversation if not actually fabricate items.

Regardless, to Trump’s credit, we aren’t holding a raffle on someone else’s country. We are sending anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. And we are sending additional military funds there.