Putin made Trump wait an hour before their summit in a move that's both a power play and a backhanded compliment

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin kept US President Donald Trump waiting for an hour before their summit on Monday in Helsinki.
  • Putin always keeps people waiting as part of what experts interpret as a power play.
  • But while Putin may have slighted Trump by showing up late, an expert told Business Insider it was also a “backhanded compliment,” as he keeps other world leaders waiting way longer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not invent being late, but he may have perfected it as a power play and means of communication, as US President Donald Trump most likely found out on Monday before the pair’s summit in Helsinki.

Putin kept Trump waiting in a guest house for nearly one hour past his planned departure time, Politico’s Annie Karni reported from Helsinki. Putin took off from Russia and landed in nearby Helsinki at 1 p.m., just 10 minutes before the summit was scheduled to start.

While Trump’s tour of Europe has had its share of blown deadlines, skipped meetings, and late arrivals – including, notably, keeping Queen Elizabeth II waiting in a viral video – he’s no match for Putin’s tardiness.

Jonathan Eyal, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that “certainly for Putin, it is part of a power play” to keep Trump waiting.

“There is no question that it’s a political message,” Eyal added.

Putin once made German Chancellor Angela Merkel wait for four hours, and he usually keeps the president or prime minister of Ukraine waiting for three hours, Eyal said.

“Putin seems to have a very healthy respect for monarchs,” Eyal said. “The British queen, he was only late for her for 14 minutes. The king of Spain he only kept waiting for 20 minutes.”

He added: “On the whole, it’s a sort of graduated thing that indicates more or less how seriously he takes you or how pleased he is with you.”

In fact, Putin is so consistently late that making someone wait only an hour is a form of praise, Eyal said.

“I think that this is a backhanded compliment,” he said. “Usually he could go two or three hours. The only person that was exempt from the delay was the pope.”

For Trump, who also tends to go by his own schedule, Putin may have bested him by showing up even later.

“There must have been some calculation from both sides about how much they keep each other waiting,” Eyal said.

For Trump, showing up a little late is “quite clever footwork,” according to Eyal, but “this time he might have met his match.”

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