The American and Russian presidents have a fundamental need to continually manage external threats. Trump and Putin are alike, even though they have not met.

The main “innovation” of the Trump era, which began on Jan. 20, is assumed to be the ever-closer relationship between the United States and Russia or, more precisely, between the 45th U.S. president and Vladimir Putin. But you can bet this umpteenth reset of American-Russian relations will end in the same impasses as those that came before.

A quick reminder: In 2001, George W. Bush claimed to have looked his Russian counterpart “in the eyes” and glimpsed “his soul” following their first meeting in Slovenia. Four years later, the two men posed together in the front seat of a 1956 Gaz M21, a photo that was applauded internationally. All of that only for Putin to stun the audience by denouncing the United States’ aggressiveness and asserting threats worthy of the Cold War during the Munich Conference on Security Policy in February 2007.

An Unlikely Rapprochement

The same disappointment occurred in 2009 with Barack Obama, who was elected on the back of a new promise of change. The disappointment culminated in an even higher level of tension following the events in Ukraine, the devastating effects of which have continued since the end of 2013. Incidentally, Putin’s return to the presidency of the Russian Federation in March 2012 was essentially built on a strong opposition to the United States, a vein that has been ceaselessly exploited.

The latest initiative, at the end of 2016, was completely pathetic; former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev (85) and his American counterpart, George H. W. Bush (92), announced they were prepared to help improve relations between Moscow and Washington …

Trump’s rise promises a complete change of direction, but who could seriously believe it? Because two new factors are acting against the rapprochement between the White House and the Kremlin, one internal and the other external.

On the one hand, there are the ever-growing and strongly substantiated accusations of hacking by a Russian source on a massive scale, against the Democratic Party and its candidate, Hillary Clinton, which have rallied the Republican majority in Congress against Moscow’s unacceptable actions. After casting suspicion on the American intelligence services, which he holds in very low regard, the president-elect must now calm down; the Republicans have urgently requested that he treat the national security agencies and their chiefs with more respect, especially as he will need them to approve his nominations for new members of the Trump administration. The president must at least reduce his unreasonable reactions to maintain his majority.

Establishing the Rest of the World as a Scarecrow

As for Putin, he is also veering away from pacification. When Trump was elected, the Russian president achieved his main goal, that of weakening the Obama-Clinton camp. In every other respect, the Kremlin’s line remains strictly unchanged, as it seems to have prevailed.

First, Russia has only been able to gain clout around the world to the detriment of American leadership. Syria is proof of that. Second, Vladimir Putin has a fundamental need to continually manage external threats: to maintain his repressive system internally, to compensate for an economic slump with military force, to justify his territorial violations by supporting nationalist populists throughout Europe. In short, to establish the rest of the world as a scarecrow. To sum up, Trump and Putin are alike, even though they have not met.