Partway through a dinner banquet for G20 leaders and their spouses, Donald Trump got up and walked all the way over to the other side of the table so he could sit down with Vladimir Putin and have an hour long private conversation with him. On the surface, it first sounded like Trump spontaneously sought Putin out after the dinner had gotten underway. But based on one key detail, it now sounds like Trump and Putin – or at least Putin – arranged their dinner conversation in advance.
That detail has to do with the translator. According to an on-air MSNBC report this evening, each G20 leader was allowed to bring one translator to the dinner. Because Donald Trump was scheduled to be seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the U.S. arranged for Trump to bring a Japanese-speaking translator with him. But Vladimir Putin chose to bring an English-speaking translator with him.
There are very few reasons why Putin would have chosen an English-speaking translator. Based on all accounts, he didn’t have any dinner partner to begin with. So unless he went into the meeting with a pressing need to seek out and communicate with an English speaker such as British Prime Minister Theresa May or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which is unlikely, the only reason for Putin to bring that particular translator with him was so he could communicate with Donald Trump. But again, Putin and Trump weren’t seated anywhere near each other.
So one of these two explanations is almost certainly true: 1) During their official meeting, Trump and Putin made arrangements to get back together during dinner and talk without their advisers, or 2) Putin simply knew that Trump would end up wanting to sit with him and speak with him, and brought the English-speaking translator with him under that assumption. Take your pick. It’s not even clear which scenario is more disconcerting than the other.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report