Russian hopes for normalized relations between Moscow and Washington are fading quickly as President Donald Trump remains under a cloud of suspicion for alleged links between his campaign aides and Russian intelligence operatives.
Kremlin officials, who originally celebrated Trump’s election as the beginning of U.S.-Russia rapprochement, are now worried that productive diplomacy between the two governments has become impossible.
The “obsession” of Democratic politicians and the American media over supposed collusion between Trump and the Kremlin is preventing bilateral engagement on a range of issues, such as resolving the war in Syria and negotiating an end to U.S. sanctions over the Ukrainian conflict, Russian officials say.
“Hope is slowly draining away,” Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Kremlin’s Foreign & Defense Policy Council, told Bloomberg. Lukyanov added that it will be “totally impossible to have any dealings” with the U.S. if Trump is impeached because Vice President Mike Pence is “very conservative and fairly aggressive” toward Russia.
Confirmed and alleged links between Trump aides and Russia have dogged the president throughout the campaign and in the early months of his administration. The Justice Department and Congress are conducting separate investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and, more worrying for the administration, allegations that Trump allies worked directly with Kremlin officials to undermine the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Despite the intense scrutiny, top Democratic lawmakers admit they haven’t seen any evidence of collusion or cooperation between Trump officials and Russian operatives thus far. (RELATED: Dianne Feinstein Says She Has Not Seen Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion [VIDEO])
National Review columnist Michael Brendan Dougherty argues the ongoing Trump-Russia drama, once a political sideshow, has become an all-encompassing “hysteria” that threatens cooperation on issues of strategic importance.
“Our last two presidents both tried to improve relations with Moscow. And there are geopolitical situations where a president of the United States, Trump or someone else, would desperately need Russian help and cooperation,” he wrote in a column on Wednesday. “If the “get Trump” hysteria impedes that, it could do more harm than good”
Illustrating Dougherty’s point, Reuters reported Thursday that anonymous current and former U.S. officials claim Trump campaign aides were in contact with Russian officials during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race. The same report revealed, much later in the story, that those contacts were limited to discussions about mending U.S.-Russian economic relations, cooperating in the fight against ISIS, and containing a newly aggressive China. (RELATED: Trump Campaign Had 18 Undisclosed Contacts With Russians, No Evidence Of Collusion)
Media scrutiny has intensified in recent weeks in response to a series of questionable decisions by Trump that fueled speculation he is trying to derail the investigation into his alleged ties to Russia. Trump first drew public outrage on May 9 when he fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the bureau’s Russia inquiry, and then again on Monday when The Washington Post reported he shared sensitive intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting in the White House.
The resulting furor from Democratic politicians and media commentators is turning even the smallest of Trump’s overtures toward Russia into supposed evidence of a conspiracy, Russian officials say. Herman Gref, chief executive officer of state-owned bank Sberbank PJSC, told CNBC that a “paranoid attitude” in the U.S. “to every single contact with Russia” makes it impossible to improve diplomatic relations.
Russian state bank executive Andrey Kostin echoed those comments in a separate CNBC interview on Friday, saying that meetings with Russian diplomats are “viewed as nearly a crime” in some Washington and media circles.
“I don’t know what these people want — a nuclear war between the two superpowers or what?” Kostin added.
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