I t was said in jest and was bereft of a scintilla of earnestness that the world had looked forward to since the US election in November 2016. This is quite the most charitable construct that can be placed upon Donald Trump’s six-word homily ~ marked by a smirk and a finger-point ~ to Vladimr Putin on Friday: “Don’t meddle in the election, please”. No one expected an incisive discourse at the  G20 summit in Osaka, and least of all “on the sidelines”. Such a discussion, if at all, ought to have been convened long ago either in Washington or Moscow. The terse response in reply to a reporter’s query ~ “Will you warn Putin?” ~ was wholly inadequate, almost perfunctory. Judging by the yardstick of superfluity, President Trump’s hedging will be difficult to beat.

A video presentation did suggest that both leaders were mildly satisfied with the query and the reply, which even prompted Mr Putin to laugh. The facetious response comes several months after the special counsel, Robert Mueller, concluded his investigation into the 2016 US presidential election, saying that he could not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

The fact of the matter must be the confirmation by the US Intelligence that Russia was behind an effort to influence the presidential poll with a “state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks”. If President Trump’s intention was to play to the international gallery assembled in Osaka, he arguably made a spectacle of himself by wagging his finger at President Putin. It is hard not to wonder whether the frigidness of the Cold War era has given way to spurious intervention in course of America’s tryst with democracy. Of course, both countries have achieved their cardinal objective ~ to ensure Hilary Clinton’s defeat. The bonhomie is simulated, inconceivable to US and Soviet leaders during the momentous phase of the Cold War. Mr Trump’s candidature will almost certainly be under a cloud when the United States of America goes to polls in November 2020.

The hedging has been manifest on either side of the Atlantic. The interaction in Osaka was the first after last year’s meeting in Helsinki, where Mr Trump studiously did not admonish Mr Putin for election interference. Nor for that matter did he side with the US Intelligence agencies, pre-eminently the Federal Bureau of Investigation, over the feedback on his Russian counterpart. Trump’s admiration and appeasement of Putin has been bizarre, much as he imagines that “many positive things are going to come out of the relationship.” On closer reflection, there isn’t even one concrete US interest that has been advanced by the quirky praxis, that masquerades as international relations. Donald Trump’s first response to Russian meddling is bound to bear on the Democrat debate in Miami on the 2020 contest for the White House. Nancy Pelosi can be expected to lead the charge of the Democrat brigade.