What’s Preventing a Respite From the Broken U.S.-Russia Relationship?
Rumblings of U.S.-Russia rapprochement hit like a bolt out of the blue.
In addition to a rare joint statement issued a couple weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin connected numerous times over the past several weeks according to public reports. These developments stand out — not because any non-coronavirus news feels like a rarity, but because ties between Moscow and Washington have long been frozen in place. It is even more surprising given the Kremlin’s continued actions in places like Syria and Ukraine. The dual challenge of the oil market crash and the COVID-19 crisis, however, seem to have momentarily altered the equation in U.S.-Russia relations.
It’s worth reiterating that a clear U.S. policy toward Russia has been virtually nonexistent in recent years. Since the start of the Trump administration, the president has tended to flatter his Russian counterpart, while the rest of his bureaucracy pursues a harder line toward Moscow. This dissonance, which obfuscates an overarching strategy, has grown more puzzling over the past weeks. And the tension it produces in U.S. policy was evident even in decisions like the statement issued on the "Spirit of the Elbe.”