The New York Times reports:
During a phone call with Mr. Putin in March, when the president was urged by aides not to congratulate the Russian president on his electoral victory, Mr. Trump did just that. He told Mr. Putin that Russia and the United States should get along better. And he commiserated with Mr. Putin over Trump administration officials whom the Russian president said had tried to prevent the call from happening, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation.
“Those are stupid people; you shouldn’t listen to them,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin, the person said. That approach has raised the stakes of the NATO gathering for Mr. Trump. “In normal times, a president of the United States would rally the allies, develop a unified approach, and go with a strengthened hand to negotiations with the president of Russia, rather than reducing his own leverage,” said Alexander Vershbow, a former deputy secretary general of NATO.