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Balance of Power: The Spymaster vs. the Businessman

Donald Trump has showered praise on Vladimir Putin for his leadership skills, but it’s the Russian president’s talent for duplicity that could get Trump into trouble.

Ahead of their highly anticipated first meeting at the G-20 in Hamburg this week, veteran American diplomats and analysts are concerned about a mismatch between a U.S. president new to global affairs and a former Soviet spymaster steeped in the long game of statecraft.

The worry is that Trump’s tendency to go with his gut when reading the person sitting across from him could be problematic in dealing with Putin, especially if he tries to disarm Trump with praise.

A range of issues hang in the balance, including sanctions, North Korea’s nuclear program and Russia’s interference in last year’s election. But ultimately the atmospherics may matter more than the actual content. How Trump handles the meeting will shape perceptions of him back home as the Congressional probe of Russian hacking grinds on. Other leaders will watch closely for signs on how U.S.-Russian relations will play out over the next four years.

Global summits can sometimes be dull affairs. This week’s G-20 will be anything but.

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Global Headlines

North Korea says it's only getting started | After testing his first intercontinental missile on the Fourth of July, Kim Jong Un bragged about sending more “gifts” Trump's way. The U.S. has called a meeting today of the United Nations Security Council, where members will condemn Pyongyang. But with China and South Korea urging caution, there are few easy options for the U.S. and its allies, as our QuickTake Q&A explains.

Dealing with Putin | Ahead of Trump’s meeting with the Russian president, Bloomberg’s Moscow bureau looked at how previous world leaders dealt with Putin. Some, such as Angela Merkel and George W. Bush, saw early expressions of goodwill fade into disillusionment. But others, such as Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, showed that the relationship can be fruitful, especially in the world of business. 

Two leaders, two pandas | Hamburg got the G-20, but Berlin got the pandas. China’s Xi Jinping will present a pair of them to Chancellor Merkel in Berlin today as relations between the two countries warm. China has used so-called panda diplomacy since the 1950s, most famously when Chairman Mao gifted two bears to President Richard Nixon in 1972. He gave the Chinese a pair of musk oxen in return.

Jiao Qing, one of two giant pandas destined for Germany, at the Giant Panda Breeding center in Chengdu, China.  
Photographer: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Abe seeks a win for free trade | Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heads for Brussels today in a bid to secure a new trade pact with the European Union after weeks of tough talks in Tokyo. While there are still differences over tariffs for cheese and cars, a deal would cover more than a quarter of the world economy and allow Abe to move onto the G-20 burnishing his globalization credentials.

Decision time on Qatar | Prospects for a quick end to the month-long crisis in the Gulf look bleak, with ministers from a Saudi-led coalition expected to reject Qatar’s response to their demands at a meeting today in Cairo. They may even impose more punitive measures to squeeze Qatar's economy at a time when Moody’s Investors Service cut its credit outlook to negative. 

And finally… It's not every day that the leader of a G-7 nation is lowered by helicopter onto a nuclear submarine. But that’s what happened yesterday when Emmanuel Macron was winched aboard “Le Terrible” almost 200 miles off the French coast to observe a missile drill. While foreign media drooled, comparing him to James Bond, the domestic commentary was less effusive, with some on Twitter suggesting he should get to work instead of staging PR stunts.

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