Breaking News Emails
MOSCOW — A dossier on Donald Trump's psychological makeup is being prepared for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser.
Trump "doesn't understand fully who is Mr. Putin — he is a tough guy,” former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fedorov told NBC News.
The file is being compiled by retired diplomats and some of Putin’s staff, he added.
The attempt to get inside the U.S. president's mind is aimed at helping Putin plan for his first meeting with America's new leader, the date for which is yet to be decided.
"Very serious preparatory work is going on in the Kremlin, including a paper — seven pages — describing a psychological portrait of Trump, especially based on this last two to three months, and the last weeks,” added Fedorov, who said he has known Trump since 2000.
The dossier was being revised regularly, he said, adding that many in the Kremlin believed that Trump viewed the presidency as a business.
Fedorov added: “Trump is not living in a box — he is living in a crowd. He should listen to the people around him especially in the areas where he is weak.”
"Trump cannot come to a meeting with Putin as a loser — he must sort out his domestic problems first”
It is normal for any president or leader to be fully briefed before entering negotiations for the first time with a rival leader, but preparing a detailed dossier on the mind and instincts of a U.S. leader is unusual.
Putin's government is growing increasingly concerned about Trump's battles in Washington, according to Fedorov and former lawmaker Sergei Markov, who remains well-connected at the Kremlin.
It is worried the president will not have the political power to improve relations with Russia, as he has indicated he might try to do, and even, perhaps, lift some U.S. sanctions.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia conducted a covert hacking operation to undermine the U.S. election process, which evolved into an attempt to help Trump win the White House. They also believe with "a high level of confidence" that Putin became personally involved in the campaign to interfere in the election.
The White House's connection with the Kremlin — and how deep it runs — remains under scrutiny, which has only ramped up last week when Mike Flynn resigned from his role as national security adviser after admitting to misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States in December.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no government or diplomatic experience, but boasts exceptionally close ties with Moscow and Putin.
And former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — who resigned in August amid questions about his ties to pro-Russia interests in Ukraine — told NBC News last week that he had "no contact knowingly with Russian intelligence officials." Manafort was reportedly one of the Trump campaign officials whose communications were investigated by the FBI, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the creation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election has won bipartisan support.
The issue of Russia "is now a kind of banana skin for Trump — that's why we should avoid any kind of step that could damage Trump," said Fedorov. "Trump cannot come to a meeting with Putin as a loser — he must sort out his domestic problems first."
Fedorov added that Trump's "constant battle with the mass media" was "worrying us."
The U.S. president "is dancing on thin ice," he said. "It's a risky game."
A former prime minister under Putin said the Kremlin is taking no pleasure at Trump’s struggles.
"Absolutely not — not laughing," Mikhail Kasyanov said. "The situation is very serious and the whole of [Putin’s] team, they are nervous.”
Many in the Kremlin believe hardliners in America — in Congress and the military — want to sabotage the president and his plans for better ties with Russia.
Some even talk of a conspiracy against Trump. Markov, the former lawmaker, told NBC News that he believes America's intelligence services "want to overthrow President Trump in a coup" because of his desire to improve relations with Russia.
Flynn was a victim of U.S. intelligence services, according to Markov.
So while many in Russia celebrated Trump's election, the mood in Moscow was changing from delight at Trump's election to doubt about his ability to deliver on a better relationship with Russia, he added.
"Donald Trump has done nothing good for Russia, nothing," Markov said. "But they already attack him."