New York Times reporters Andrew Higgins and Neil MacFarquhar issued their verdict  even before President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in their article “Just Sitting Down With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.”
“When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sits down with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday for a meeting he has long wanted, he will already have accomplished virtually everything he could reasonably hope for. All he really needs to make his meeting with Mr. Trump  a success is for it to take place without any major friction — providing a symbolic end to Western efforts to isolate Russia over its actions against Ukraine in 2014, its meddling in the United States election in 2016 and other examples of what the United States Treasury Department has described as Russia’s ‘malign activity’ around the world.”
Prior to the meeting, the White House reiterated that the United Stations does not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea and that U.S.-Crimea sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine.
The Times also accused Trump of putting domestic politics ahead of American interests.
“Putting relations on better footing, said Mr. Kurilla, the St. Petersburg scholar, is important for Mr. Putin but more so for Mr. Trump, who needs a more benign image of Russia to help stop his political opponents from using Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 American election to undermine his own legitimacy.”
The Trump administration has been tough on Russia, including indicting Russians involved with hacking related to the 2016 election, reinforcing sanctions on Russian individuals and entities, including four different times so far this year. In an unprecedented move, three Russian facilitates in the United States have been closed and 60 Russians were expelled from the country.