Millennium Post

Russian dilemma

Though cold war era is long over, the coldness in the relations between US and Russia still haunts the two countries. The latest to fall victim of the hostile relations between the two nations is the US President Donald Trump himself. On Thursday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his desire to be recused from any probe into Russia's role in the election of US President Donald Trump as an overzealous US media revealed more details of his meeting with a Russian diplomat in US during Trump's poll campaign. This coupled with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's resignation some time back over similar meetings with Russian diplomats in US point to the opposition that President Trump faces in his bid to normalise US-Russia ties. The current spell of bad blood in US-Russia relations dates back to 2014 when President Barack Obama imposed economic sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea and launching an unprovoked invasion of eastern Ukraine, where it was already supporting rebel fighters. The sanctions have hit Russian economy hard as they target Russia's energy sector which makes for half of the country's GDP. With oil prices down to record levels, Russia feels the pinch of sanctions all the more, as it reaches out to Beijing scouting for long-term loans and procurement of technology and equipment for its energy sector.

In a highly polarised election campaign in 2016, Hillary Clinton, who was the Secretary of State in the Obama administration was being favoured by the Obamas as the future President. The high-pitched electoral battle saw Trump making many an unorthodox statements — a call for normal ties with Russia being just one of them. Coming from a business background, for Trump, advocating business-friendly relations with other countries including Russia was in line with his ethos as a successful businessman, a trait he perhaps intends to introduce to American policy making.

It's no secret that US economy is no more in the pink of health, nor is the employment scene as optimistic with outsourcing and foreign workers cornering a major chunk of US jobs, as in line with the great and exalted American dream. Trump's call for a more vigorous protection of US jobs and enhanced businesses cooperation with major economic powers including Russia struck a chord with US voters, and the result was unbelievable - Trump emerging victorious in the elections. But, as the Obama administration was about to come to terms with the Trump's victory, it received dossiers from its intelligence agencies that Russia had helped in Trump's poll campaign in a big way. So much so that it amounted to interfering in the US Presidential elections. Infuriated, the Obama administration vowed to retaliate and teach Russia a lesson for its misadventure. Diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were already at a low, further deteriorated with US cutting down on freedom enjoyed by Russian diplomats in US. But, for Russia, there was hope that once in President's seat, Trump would undo much of what is wrong between the two countries. That is easier said than done as the resignation of Flynn and recusal of Attorney General Sessions from any probe into Russia's role in Trump's electoral campaign suggest.

Of the many controversial remarks made by US President Donald Trump before and after assuming power, one that is really going to stick with him longer than he expects is how he described journalists as the most dishonest human beings on the earth. With barely two months into his new office, President Trump is having to deal with a rising wave of accusations, many of these launched by the media, that his election itself was improperly aided by arch rival Russia. His men who led his high-decibel election campaign and some of whom are now in his administration, are falling victim to this diplomatic misadventure. Given Trump's friendly posturing towards Russia, the question commonly asked by foreign policy experts is about the full potential of such overtures. Apart from the big business that the Russian oil and energy sector offers, and the US companies' inability to benefit because of the sanctions, Trump sees Russia as a crucial player in the fight against ISIS and Taliban forces. A closer tie with Russia is also more productive for US to counter China's unbridled economic progress and its geopolitical muscle flexing.
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