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Downward Spiral of US-Russia Relations

Downward Spiral of US-Russia Relations

Why the relations between Cold War rivals are deteriorating?

The relationship between the two Cold War rivals – the United States and Russia – has plunged to a new low, following the imposition of sanctions on Russia, and expulsion of its nearly 60 diplomats from the United States, and over 30 of those from across Europe, as well as closure of Russian consulate in Seattle in response to the ex-spy poisoning case. Trump-led US administration is, reportedly, seeking to slap further sanctions on Russian businesses, organizations and politicians. The ties between the United States and Russia have remained strained over the years in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, Syrian war, and alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election of 2016. The current developments are likely to fuel the fire of confrontation and discord.

It is believed that Russia’s foreign policy has seen a drastic paradigm shift as the country seems to have abandoned the principle of reintegration with the West – something that was construed as a major goal in the post-Soviet era. Instead, it is now seeking to secure co-equal political status in the US-dominated international arena.

The recent sanctions have come as a punitive measure to teach the ‘mischievous’ Kremlin a lesson in order to stop it from conspiring to sabotage the Western democracies. However, more than one implication underlies them. The sanctions freeze assets held by the Russian individuals or entities in the United States. Accordingly, the US citizens are debarred from conducting any business with them even if the latter may be associated with international companies. However, a potentially more serious implication of the sanctions is that they discourage the international financial institutions from transacting with them. Quite interestingly, even the non-Americans are explicitly warned of imposition of sanctions on them for undertaking or facilitating any enterprise with the blacklisted Russian people or companies. On the other hand, senior Trump administration officials maintain that the sanctions are never aimed at Russian people; rather, they are designed to throttle the hitherto insulated elites and oligarchs “disproportionately profiting from the corrupt system.”

However, it does not go well with some of the political analysts. Recession will do the much-needed service for Russia’s Putin to heighten Russian sphere of influence in what Mariya Omelichev, a professor of political science at University of Kansas, termed “near abroad”. Even though Russia’s recession will have a distressing economic impact on Russia’s neighbours, it is apt to provide Kremlin with an opportunity to strengthen its political influence in these states. The Russian leadership repeatedly says that it stands for political stability above everything and that despite Russia’s financial crisis, it is willing to provide military and security guarantees to regimes in the post-Soviet space.

It may be noted here that President Trump has kept from directly hitting out at Russia. Instead, he reiterates his willingness to see Putin, and tries his utmost to better relations with Russia – something both criticized and taken with a pinch of salt by the Americans. The notoriety of having engineered the 2016 election by Russia surrounds Mr Trump as a frightening apparition. The narrative of “collusion” began to be circulated following the US presidential election in which Trump’s win was attributed to the Russian interference.

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