If President Trump is truly as tough on Vladimir Putin as he claims, he won't meet with the Russian leader come January.

The question bears attention in light of the White House announcement on Wednesday that a planned summit between President Trump and Putin will be pushed back from this fall to early next year. While the summit's delay is almost certainly motivated by Republican concerns over the optics of Putin being hosted in Washington just two months before the midterm elections, the date change also offers a key test for Trump's truthfulness. Specifically, the veracity or otherwise of Trump's assertion on Tuesday:

But how specifically does this schedule development help us gauge Trump's honesty?

Well, with the meeting now delayed until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, by the time the new year meeting comes around, Trump will have been fully briefed on Vladimir Putin's latest antics. That might not have been the case were the summit kept to its original fall timeline.

Consider that were the summit just a few weeks away, Putin would be behaving more cautiously so as to avoid an embarrassing U.S. cancellation of the meeting. While the Russian leader is a hyper-energetic anti-American, he is also a realist who contemplates the situational environment. And Putin knows that were he to escalate against U.S. interests in the run-up to a September meeting in Washington, he would be inviting a political storm on Capitol Hill and the likelihood of new sanctions. But from Putin's perspective, the beauty of a fall summit would have been in allowing him to behave better than normal, and thus allow for a peaceful summit, without sacrificing any of his broader policy interests.

After all, the Russians could have simply departed Washington following the fall summit and then activated their cyber-offensive plans against the midterms. One or two months' worth of those efforts in the run-up to Nov. 6 would give Russia ample time to manipulate voters as they make their final decisions on voting preferences. And to be clear, that disruption agenda is real. One senior U.S. official tells me that Russian attack plans are targeting Republican seats that might feasibly swing to Democrats. Their agenda in doing so is to foster further U.S. political division and societal discord.

Yet now that the summit is being delayed until next year, Putin has no significant interest in calibrating his attack strategies to the concern of time. Instead, he will escalate his efforts against the U.S. now. And Russian strategic interests tell us that those efforts will be measured not just in cyberspace, but in agitating against the U.S. in Syria and beyond. Putin will assume he can do these things and let the waters calm before the new year summit.

But for Trump, that's both a challenge and an opportunity.

Because the Russians leave intelligence fingerprints all over their activities, the U.S. intelligence community will be able to give Trump a briefing on what the Russians have been up to before the new year meeting takes place. Trump will thus face one of two choices. First, he can meet with Putin, even though he'll know the Russian leader has attacked the midterms. Or Trump can choose to abandon the summit in its entirety. One choice will represent strength and the other weakness.

But one way or another, Putin's strategic interest in countering America guarantees that we'll find out where Trump stands.