We do not usually think so, even though he has overseen a major decline of the Russian economy as well as a major isolation of his nation internationally, with many other nations putting his under economic sanctions and generally shunning his in response to aggressive actions that he has taken in recent years. But, as we know, he has been able generally to sell all this to his own population as being part of a neo-Great Patriotic War against fascism in Ukraine and elsewhere, with people buying this and accepting the need for economic sacrifice as a result, by and large, although there have been some demos and some slippage recently. But mostly his poll ratings remain high. So, maybe he is a terrible leader for the economic health of his people, but they do not care and support him and his cronies and their multiple billions of dollars of corruption and thievery. Looks pretty smart from the strictly personal standpoint.
So now he goes and makes himself look like Sean Spicer or Mike Pence, making a public statement about Donald J. Trump that Trump has already denied and shown to be false. Putin is joining this crowd of humiliated losers, at least on the surface. Here Trump has already bragged that he leaked super classified information to the visiting Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as well as the ambasador, as well as it turns out quite a few other Russian flunkies, with photos of the bunch all grinning taken by Tass and splattered all over the world, even as the US press was kept out. Trump has gone out of his way to assert his right to do this, and he does have the right to do this, however stupid or careless or destructive it is (and I do not know how destructive it is, the Israelis are claiming it is no big deal, and apparently it is their agent who may be dead as a result of this leak). NSC chief, McMaster has defended Trump's actions as being "most appropriate," after initially denying he had leaked something so secret it had not been told to high level allies. But hey, "Russia is our friend," as Richard Spencer and the alt-right white supremacists chanted in Charlottesville the other night, so it is OK.
But now we have Putin coming along, who requested this meeting in the first place, to declare that no classified material was leaked by Trump. And if there was any, Lavrov and crew did not tell him or anybody else about it or what it was, even though by now we all know pretty much what it was (all about a Daesh/ISIS plot to blow up planes using laptops that had led to US restricting laptops on planes going through certain airports) and that the info came from the Israelis, although I have not as yet seen which city this info came from, which supposedly Trump also blabbed, which was probably the crucial thing that should not have been blabbed, although probably Mossad has gotten their guy the heck out of there before he could get killed. So, hey, no problem. But, in any case, here we have the supposedly brilliant and well-informed V.V. Putin putting out something that the whole world already knows is nonsense, based on the public statements of Donald J. Trump himself. He leaked deep secrets, and he is proud of it.
So why is this pretty crafty guy making himself look like some pathetic sucker? My guess is that he is trying to prop up Trump and keep him happy with V.V. Putin. We increasingly know that all Trump cares about is hearing people say praising things about him, even if what they are saying is a flagrant lie and inconsistent with things already publicly known. This ridiculous claim by Putin would fit in with that, and indeed, he is hoping to have Trump be cooperative and get along with him and Lavrov and Kislyak, even if Trump is not about to remove economic sanctions or other such things that maybe Putin and his minions were hoping might happen as a result of Trump's assuming the presidency. Pat him on the back and publicly lie for him in the flagrant face of facts. Trump just loves that sort of thing, and in the current situation where many are seriously down on his case, it probably is pleasing him plenty. VV is still his pal.
Let me be clear that I am not at all against the US and Russia being friendly, at least to some extent. No, I am not for just rolling over and saying, "Great about invading and annexing parts of Ukraine in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum; those darned Ukies are just a bunch of fascists, blah blah blah!" And there have been other areas where Putin has been very badly behaved in response to the economic sanctions, particularly in relation to nuclear weapons agreements between Russia and the US, especially the fairly recent START that Obama worked so hard to negotiate with Medvedev, which Putin has reportedly been massively violating recently. But maybe a positive of all this Putin having a patsy in the White House is that Putin will behave better on that front (I have seen no reports about that, and maybe he has been harassing the Estonians and others in Northern Europe less as he was messing with them during the Obama presidency, which I have also seen no reports on). So, maybe there have been some improvements, if not all that visible.
In fact this meeting should have taken place. The supposed topics of the meeting were Syria and Ukraine, and it was not widely reported but the Ukrainian foreign minister met with Trump shortly after Trump met with Lavrov et al. With the signing of the Astana accord between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, with Erdogan of Turkey visiting Trump yesterday, it was indeed important that some sort of agreements be made about who is doing what and where in Syria. And coming to agreements about Ukraine as well were also important. It should also be kept in mind that even when they were not getting along, Obama and Putin did cooperate on quite a few things, including getting Assad to get rid of (most of) his chemical weapons as well as Lavrov playing an absolutely crucial, if not widely publicized, role in finalizing the difficult negotiations with Iran over the nuclear deal, which seems to be being maintained by all sides so far, despite Trump's having declared it during the campaign to be "the worst deal ever made." I suspect Putin and Lavrov have played a not unimportant role in convincing Trump not to keep that campaign promise to end that very important deal. So there are many areas for cooperation, despite ongoing disagreements.
Of course, Trump has managed to totally botch this. I actually feel sorry for Lavrov, coming in for this important meeting in the difficult context of many in the US (accurately) accusing Trump's people of working for the Russians and lying about it (OK to communicate with them, but not to lie about it), and then Trump completely blows it all apart by firing FBI director Comey the day before Lavrov arrives, and then keeping the US press out of the meeting, just making it all look even more sinister and ridiculous. No wonder Lavrov said "You're kidding" when he was told after his meeting with Tillerson and just before his meeting with Trump that Trump had just fired Comey. Trump may be a pathetic and hopeless moron, but Lavrov is not.