What is the state of US-Russia relations?

It seems that the US-Russia relations under President Donald Trump are even more interesting, complicated, unclear (whether word we use) than expected. I know it is probably hard to say, but right now what does make sense to you in the US-Russia relations? Read few comments.

US Secretary of State is just visiting Moscow. Credit: https://www.state.gov/

Stephen BittnerProfessor of History, Sonoma State University

Yes, the latest tension between the US and Russia was unexpected, and probably stems from tensions in the White House between the Trump family, Tillerson, and Haley, on the one hand, and people close to Bannon, on the other. But it appears now that the Trump administration will defend certain core ideas, including basic human rights, even if this brings the United States into further conflict with Russia. In this regard, the new presidential administration is not so different from the old one, which may come as some relief to Europeans who fear between caught between a newly aggressive Russia and suddenly isolationist and nationalistic America. Right now, at least, there doesn’t seem to be much common ground between Putin and Trump.

Gennady Rudkevich, Assistant Professor, Department of Government & Sociology, Georgia College & State University

I agree with your description of the relationship. Russian officials believed Trump would be an ally once elected. They thought he’d focus on issues of joint interest, like fighting ISIS, and ignore problem areas, like human rights and the situation in Ukraine. Instead, President Trump has sent a mixed message. He hasn’t criticized anyone’s human rights record, but bombed Syria. He hasn’t talked much about Russian actions in Ukraine, but he also didn’t try to lift sanctions on Russia over those actions.

In the Russian media, praise for Trump has been replaced by either caution or the argument that Trump is now under the control of the “deep state.” Some Trump officials, especially Ambassador Nikki Haley, have criticized Russian foreign policy in very strong terms. Russia is probably going to give Trump another chance, but it’s ready to back to the contentious relationship that it pursued with President Obama. On the American side, there is no clear foreign policy. Key figures – Tillerson, Haley, Kushner, Bannon, Mattis – have very different foreign policy ideas. President Trump himself doesn’t have the experience to pursue a clear path. This means that depending on which of the above figures is influential at any given time, America might pursue a different policy. President Trump might also have learned a lesson about the political benefit of an anti-Russian foreign policy based on the positive response of American politicians and the public to the Syrian air strikes. This might negatively affect his willingness to keep his campaign promise of pursuing a closer relationship with Russia.

Steven PiferSenior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

My sense is that the president’s views on Russia may be evolving as he sees that a grand bargain really is not possible and that Moscow’s behavior is problematic, for example in Syria and Ukraine. His vice president, national security advisor, secretary of defense and secretary of state are all expressing a conventional Republican approach to Russia, which is based on skepticism about the Kremlin’s actions in recent years.

Thomas NicholsProfessor of National Security Affairs, U. S. Naval War College

I think the Russians did not expect President Trump to be so unpredictable. The Kremlin and its boss like to control events, not be surprised by them, and I suspect that at this point they are trying to figure out why they’re in conflict with a White House that was supposed to be less confrontation than the candidate they hated the most, Hillary Clinton. Once again, the Kremlin is learning that the U.S. government is larger than any one personality. The issues of conflict – as well as the areas of common interest – between America and Russia haven’t changed. But the new administration’s policy on Russia isn’t yet fully formed, so Russian behavior will have a lot of influence on whether things get worse or better in the months ahead.

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