US-Russian Relations: Why US 2018 Congressional Elections May Change Everything

© AFP 2023 / SAUL LOEB US House of Representatives. (File)
US House of Representatives. (File) - Sputnik International
Apparently, the US-Russian relationship has not reached its lowest point yet, Russian academic Alexander Domrin told Radio Sputnik. However, one shouldn't expect any improvements in Russo-American relations before the next congressional election, Domrin foresees.

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While the US-Russian relationship is now at a low point, it has not bottomed out yet, professor Alexander Domrin, of the National Research Institute Higher School of Economics, believes.

On Wednesday US President Donald Trump signed a bill imposing sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea into law.

The new law targets Russia's defense, intelligence, mining, shipping and railway industries and restricts dealings with Russian banks and energy companies.

Commenting on the implemented package of sanctions against Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev highlighted that the United States had de facto declared a full-fledged trade war against Russia.

"The signing by the US president of a new sanctions law against Russia creates several consequences: Firstly, the hope of improving our relations with the new US administration is dead. Secondly, the US declared a fully-fledged trade war on Russia. Thirdly, the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence by humiliatingly transferring executive powers to Congress, which changes the balance of power in US political circles," Medvedev wrote on his Facebook account.

Remarkably, in response, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert rushed to signal that "there is always hope for improvement."

"Is it the end? Look, we are two nuclear superpowers," Nauert said during an August 3 press briefing. "I think many folks around the world agree that the United States and Russia should be able to work together in areas of mutual cooperation. If you look at the cease-fire in southwest Syria, that has now taken hold and, for the most part, succeeded for nearly a month now."

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"That is an example of good US-Russian cooperation," she emphasized. "Certainly our relationship is at a low point, but we have to find areas of mutual cooperation."

For their part, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slammed congressional sanctions against Russia.

"The action by Congress to put these sanctions in place and the way they did, neither the president nor I were very happy about that," Tillerson told reporters Wednesday.

That gives observers a glimmer of hope that the US-Russian relationship has not reached its lowest point yet.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Domrin highlighted that many in Russia believed that Trump's victory would lead to US-Russian rapprochement. Alas, the recent developments have proven otherwise, the academic noted, adding that Russia will now have to respond to Washington's unfriendly moves.

"Russia will be forced to respond to the new US sanctions," the expert said. "The fact that we've limited access to the [US] diplomatic property [in Russia] and reduced the number of American diplomats and personnel is only a response to the Russophobic attack of [former US President Barack] Obama in late December last year."

The Russian academic called attention to the fact that back in 2016 Russia didn't respond to Obama's move: the Kremlin had seen that the previous administration was doing whatever it took to leave "a minefield" for Donald Trump.

"We waited half a year after Trump's inauguration for any attempts [on the part of the new administration] to normalize relations between our countries. That did not happen," Domrin stressed.

"However, hope dies last. I believe we have not reached rock bottom in our relationship with the United States yet," the academic remarked.

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According to Domrin, one shouldn't expect any dramatic changes in the US-Russian bilateral relationship in the next year or year and a half. Still, he believes that everything could change following the congressional elections of 2018.

"The signing of the law on sanctions shows Trump's impotence…. My real hope lies with the congressional elections in November next year," Domrin noted, adding that if Trump manages to win over the congressional Republicans it could open the door to positive changes in US politics.

Commenting on Nauert's statement, the expert expressed his bewilderment over the fact that the State Department spokesperson mentioned Syria only while speaking about potential areas of US-Russian mutual cooperation.

 "I was really embarrassed that, apart from Syria, Heather Nauert did not name any other area [of cooperation]. There is, of course, some room for cooperation, but only if it is mutually beneficial," he underscored.

The academic emphasized that Washington follows its usual pattern: "They make some sort of vicious attack [against Russia] and then demand that we make a step toward them."

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