We were all in the thick of things when the US brought sanctions to Russia and when they decided to go ahead with air strikes in Syria. That there nearly brought these two superpowers to an open clash which would be the first big tension between them since Cold War. Thanks to at least one cool head – Putin, tensions might start dialing down.
Russia president Vladimir Putin is the one still willing to give a second chance to Trump and make a deal that will assure they make good on their pledges to improve ties and avoid escalation. To make things even more interesting, we found out that Kremlin ordered their officials to curb any and all anti-US rhetoric. This, of course, explains why they so suddenly pulled the draft of the law that would impose sweeping counter-sanctions on U.S. companies.
According to Igor Bunin of the Center for Political Technologies “Putin is ready to make numerous, deep concessions, but he has to appear like he’s not losing. He understands Russia can’t compete with the West economically and he doesn’t plan to go to war with the West.” On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry official in Moscow stated that Trump administration notified Russia’s embassy in Washington (on Sunday) that there will not be any new sanctions towards them, at least not in the near future.
The reason for this simmering down is hidden behind the fact that Kremlin is still trying to get a grasp on this whole situation, and especially the economic impact that the sanctions bring. If you recall some of the latest news, these sanctions actually damaged one of the country’s most powerful businessmen, billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the most.
His company’s (Rusal) shares dropped down about 70% in Hong Kong, and this is all thanks to the U.S. who basically banned the company from the dollar economy April 6. This sanction immediately erased about $6 billion of value and jeopardized around 100,000 jobs and in worse time possible – just when Russia is starting to crawl out of its longest recession in two decades.
President Trump wanted to try and improve ties between the two superpowers, but Congress and much of his administration are keen to keep the pressure up. What complicates this diplomatic dance, even more, are the often and mixed signals that come from the White House. On Monday Trump decided to put a halt at new Russian sanctions which brought a brief rally in the ruble, but on Tuesday everyone gets a totally different message (that scared Russian markets the most) from economic adviser Larry Kudlow who stated: “additional sanctions are under consideration.”
This diplomatic rollercoaster is putting a lot of strain on Kremlin, but they remain firm. They showed this on Monday when their legislators abandoned a bill that was supposed to limit a broad range of trade with the U.S., from farm products and medications to aviation and space. According to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin this ban on selling rocket engines “would hurt Russia more than the U.S.” since they are so dependent on American contracts. We have already mentioned that (even before the attack on Syria) Russia told its officials to tone down the retaliatory speech, but somehow Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon didn’t get that memo and thanks to one interview made world headlines. While speaking for the local television, he stated that Russia wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down missiles and attack whatever platforms they were launched from if its forces were threatened. This, of course, put Kremlin in a very tough spot, but thankfully the warning wasn’t repeated.
The tensions between Russia and US have always been high, and the situation was always tight. The long built fragile relationship is nearing its crumble thanks to recent events like the nerve-agent attack on a Russian turncoat spy in the U.K. and this airstrike in Syria. Thankfully, US officials have high hopes that Trump might be able to stop the downward slide. The first big step towards this was Trump’s congratulation to Putin on his re-election in March and the prospect of a White House summit, that is on a long pole, to be honest.
What doesn’t benefit this entire situation between these superpowers is a lot of other tensions like alleged Russian hacking, trolling and other forms of online aggression. In order to prevent these things from happening again, U.S. and U.K. officials, just this week, issued a joint warning of “stepped up Russian probing of corporate and government computer systems in the West.” The alert included advice to companies about how to protect themselves and warned specifically of attacks on routers, the devices that channel data around a network. Ciaran Martin, a chief executive officer of Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, stated that “Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace.” On the other side, Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat (now a foreign-policy analyst in Moscow) tried to defend their case by stating “Cyber-espionage is considered a legitimate activity, it shouldn’t really affect bilateral relations.”