BEIJING China (Xinhua) --
Despite the personal chemistry between Russian and U.S. presidents and their
pledges to revive bilateral ties, the Russia-U.S. relations have hardly advanced
in 2017 thanks to the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S.
presidential election, in combination with other factors.
experts, the so-called “Russiagate” probe, believed to be the top issue weighing
on Moscow-Washington interactions in 2017, will continue to overshadow bilateral
ties in the coming year.
Investigations started in June 2016 after accusations piled up against Russia
over its “influence campaign” and alleged mail hacking aiming to interfere with
the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
team of U.S. President Donald Trump was arraigned on its suspected link with
Russia for the final win in the election. Trump’s inner sanctum members like his
eldest son and son-in-law were also interviewed as part of congressional
It seemed the
turning point came after former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director
Robert Mueller’s appointment in May as special counsel to oversee the
investigation into Russian election interference and related matters.
Mueller’s office charged Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort,
Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates, and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos with
lying to the FBI. While Manafort and Gates pleaded innocent, Papadopoulos
admitted the charges.
On Dec. 1,
former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to
the FBI regarding improper contacts with Russian officials, becoming the first
member of the Trump-led administration to be found guilty in the ongoing probe
into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Russia.
investigation has certainly unsettled the White House as he has been able to
bring charges against several key players - including Paul Manafort and Michael
Flynn,” said Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the
Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, a Washington-based
House has cooperated with the investigation, yet at the same time President
Trump and many in conservative media have sought to delegitimize the
investigation. Any action against Mueller would likely trigger a major
constitutional and political crisis, so it will be something to continue to
watch closely in 2018,” Mahaffee told Xinhua.
Russian intervention in U.S. politics also led to the two countries’ mutual
expulsion of diplomats and banning media organizations.
ties remain strained as there has been no reckoning on the issue of Russian
interference in the U.S. election as the President (Trump) remains convinced
that discussions of Russian influence are insulting to his own election
victory,” said Mahaffee.
well as many in the Trump administration, remain rightly concerned about the
Russian threat to the United States and its key allies,” Mahaffee added.
Russia probe, experts from both countries suggested the Russian-U.S. relations
basically suffer as their interests are irreconcilable.
disagreements between the two countries are “intractable,” said a report
published in November gathering views of scholars from the Washington-based
think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Russian
International Affairs Council (RIAC).
thought Russia and the United States are not likely to emerge as close partners,
as the two perceive threats in each other’s policies and actions.
Andrei Suzdaltsev, a Russian expert, Moscow now practically has no “freedom of
maneuver” regarding diplomatic interaction with Washington, which offered
preconditions that “are certainly unacceptable for Russia, like abandoning
“The U.S. is
still demonstrating such, I would say, ‘indulgently colonial’ approach, which
leaves us without a possibility to maneuver,” said Suzdaltsev, deputy dean of
the Faculty of World Economy and Politics of Russia’s Higher School of Economics
concern about the fact that almost all communications between the two countries
were blocked, except for some “situational contacts.” There is also no mutual
trust for dialogues to restart, Suzdaltsev added.
U.S.-Russian relations are also believed to be affected by shifting global power
dynamics in a broader context.
four-year-old Ukraine crisis, disagreements over the Syrian crisis and the
anti-terrorism war played vital parts in the bitter feud.
Russian intervention in Syria and regional anti-terrorism war saw a gradual
drawdown in 2017, Moscow kept two military bases in Syria, the Hmeymim airbase
and the Tartus naval base, which, according to Russian Defense Ministry, will
guarantee Syria’s future stability.
investment in Syria paid off in the Middle East, right at a time when the United
States chose to change its strategy in the region.
President Vladimir Putin paid a whirlwind tour to the Middle East at the
beginning of December, amid Muslim nations’ rage over Trump’s unilateral
decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Administration has made a series of decisions which have made it more unpopular
in the world’s probably most vulnerable region, and which have left a great deal
of uncertainty in its relations with Russia.
the strategic importance of and abundant energy resources in the Middle East, as
well as the urgency to prevent terrorism spillover, many worry the outlook for
U.S.-Russian ties could be bleaker as the two disagree on vital issues in the
pointed out that the U.S. Congress is unconvinced that a rapprochement with
Russia could solve global and regional issues related to Ukraine or Syria, as
well as Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The two world
powers are “stretching and testing the limits of what is possible in the world,”
said the CSIS-RIAC report published in November. Enditem
correspondents Zhu Dongyang, Liu Chen and Sun Ding in
Washington, and Liao Bingqing in Moscow also contributed to this story.)