With global attention—and much speculation—focused on their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany on Friday, a handful of former spies said the experienced Russian President Vladimir Putin had the likely advantage over U.S. President Donald Trump, a novice in terms of world affairs and a man described as "sociopathic narcissist" in terms of temperament.
While Trump said it was "an honor" to meet with Putin as the two made brief comments to reporters ahead of their scheduled closed-door meeting in Hamburg Friday morning, the ex-spies who spoke with The Daily Beast's Spencer Ackerman in advance warned that the Russian president, himself a former intelligence officer, would likely put "his tradecraft as a spy to work" in order to exploit Trump's weaknesses, specifically his "massive, delicate ego."
According to Glenn Carle, a retired CIA interrogator and analyst, the U.S. president is an easy mark for someone as sophisticated and practiced as Putin. "Trump is just about a sociopathic narcissist," Carle told the Daily Beast. "That's not to denounce him, just an assessment of the guy... Fulsome praise, full of garbage, is a small price to pay to get what you want."
Also quoted in the story, Oleg Kalugin, a former high-level officer in the KGB, explained that Putin has "been in power for so many years and, by character, he knows how to handle things and how to outsmart others, including presidents of the United States."
Friday's sit-down meeting, expected to last approximately 30 minutes, will likely touch on several key issues including the ongoing conflict in Syria, disagreements over Ukraine, and—a top issue for many Americans—allegations over Russian attempts to meddle in last year's U.S. elections.
In his brief remarks ahead of their meeting, Putin said he was "delighted" to meet Trump "personally" for the first time.