Relations between Russia and the U.S. have been deteriorating for a long time, and quite possibly they will worsen. Although Russia is not a peer competitor in the league of China, it nevertheless poses a challenge to certain definitions of American primacy. As a candidate and then as president from January 2017, Donald J. Trump appeared to offer a way out of the spiral of decline in mutual relations. He repeatedly argued that it would be good to ‘get on’ with Russia. Instead, not only did he find himself constrained by powerful vested interests opposed to a rapprochement with Russia, in the end Russia turned out to be the cudgel with which Trump’s opponents sought to constrain him and even to drive him from office.
U.S.-Russian Relations in the Trump Era
Donald J. Trump’s rhetorical shift from ‘leadership’ to ‘greatness’ made possible some sort of rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia, after a period when relations had seriously deteriorated. Trump did not plan to give up American primacy, but ‘greatness’ was to be based on transactional relationships, the repudiation of democracy promotion and regime change. However, charges of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 constrained Trump’s freedom of maneuver, and in the end relations worsened, although some practical cooperation remains. The situation remains open, with direct conflict not to be excluded, although a continued period of strained relations and the onset of elements of a new Cold War is more likely.
Presidents Trump and Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Germany on July 7, 2017. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
Already have an account? Sign In.