Relations between the United States of America and Russia are deteriorating significantly in the wake of anti-Russian sanctions Congress passed last week — and the situation does not bode well for long-term U.S. interests.
The sanctions, which President Donald Trump is prepared to support, according to the White House, drew swift condemnation from the Russian government, which in turn seized two U.S. diplomatic properties and ordered the expulsion of 752 U.S. diplomats.
Russia appears to be reacting to the escalation in tensions with disappointment, and while it claims it does not want further diplomatic hostilities, it has nevertheless promised further retaliation should the U.S. continue its diplomatic aggression.
“If the U.S. side decides to move further towards further deterioration, we will answer, we will respond in kind,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We will mirror this. We will retaliate,” Ryabkov continued. “But my whole point is, don’t do this, it is to the detriment of the interests of the U.S.,” he said.
Veteran political commentator Pat Buchanan agrees.
“These sanctions are a declaration by Congress that it believes Russia under Putin is irredeemable, that we cannot do business with Moscow,” Buchanan told LifeZette. “Congress does not want a rapprochement with Russia. It is steeped in Russophobia and does not trust President Trump to negotiate with Putin, and is happy in a second Cold War,” he said.
“They are leaving Putin no place to go than with China, and they are forfeiting any cooperation we could get with Russia in Syria and North Korea. If Bibi Netanyahu finds a diplomatic partner to work with in Putin, and can find common ground, why in heaven’s name can’t we?”
Putin himself seemed to express remorse over the worsening diplomatic situation during an interview on Russian state television on Sunday. “I am against [further retaliation] as of today,” Putin said in the interview. “We were waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, were holding out hope that the situation would change somehow. But it appears that even if it changes someday, it will not change soon,” Putin said.
“Theoretically, there might come the time when losses from attempts to exert pressure on Russia would be equal to the negative impacts stemming from certain restrictions on our cooperation. Well, when such a moment comes, we can look at other options of responses. But I hope such a moment will never come,” Putin said.
Putin stressed the areas in which the United States and Russia do and should continue to cooperate.
“There are very important spheres of cooperation, including non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — and here we are playing the first violin, along with the Unites States, and strengthening of this regime, as well as fighting against terrorism,” he said.
“Judging by what has been done recently (let us wait and see how the situation develops further), the establishment of the de-escalation zone in Syria is a concrete step, a concrete result of joint efforts,” he said. “Not only in the interests of Syria and Russia but also in the interests of Jordan and Israel, and, hence, in the interests of the United States as this is [the] region of U.S. interests. So, we are working and achieving results even now, in this rather difficult situation.”
Buchanan says he believes Putin’s desire to cooperate — or at the very least avoid an escalation in tensions — is sincere.
“Clearly, when Russia refused to respond to our expulsion of 35 diplomats and the closing of the compounds on Long Island and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Putin was signaling a willingness to deal with the new president,” Buchanan said.
Anti-Russian bias stemming from allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election is hamstringing the president’s ability to build a constructive relationship with Russia, observers note.
“These new sanctions, imposed by Congress near unanimously, mandate that the president get congressional approval before lifting them,” said Buchanan. “Every Cold War president would have protested this as intolerable. All sought to negotiate with the Soviets even in the worst of times,” he said.
“Ike invited Khrushchev to America, three years after Khrushchev drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. JFK reached out to Khrushchev in his American University speech, eight months after Khrushchev put missiles in Cuba,” Buchanan continued.
“Nixon was negotiating arms control with the Russians six months after the crushing of the Prague Spring. Reagan, even after Solidarity was crushed, looked constantly for an opportunity to talk with the Soviets,” he said. “When Gorbachev came to power, we were in Geneva almost immediately, and the Soviets were still in Afghanistan.”