America and Russia: a “Special” Relationship?
What did we learn about the future of America’s relationship with Russia from the first Trump-Putin liaison?
The first week of an American Presidency is usually like watching Godzilla’s child take its first steps; largely significant movements are made, but they are naturally cautious of not destroying the nearest city. In relation to Russia, comparisons to the Cold War should perhaps be avoided, as that would imply that the US have the upper hand diplomatically, and Trump’s recent relations with Putin have not agreed to that conclusion.
A judgement of America’s relationship with Russia can only be made by the official White House statement that a “positive call” was made, which is about as generic and predictable as foreign policy gets. Even considering the topics raised in the call, no accurate prophecy can be made from such diplomatic content as: “improving the relationship between the United States and Russia”.
Like most of Trump’s dialect then, the future of America’s relationship with Russia should be determined by controversies between the nations. Much of Trump’s campaign for the White House was dogged by scandal around a rumoured intervention in the election by none other than Russia. The facts around this accusation remain to be declared, largely because I can imagine if they were, we might have a war on our hands, yet this would be the exact message Trump supporters would want to hear. However, a relationship between Trump and Putin would not signify a stronger relationship between America and Russia.
This came to a head on a Fox News interview, when Trump tried to play off human rights atrocities in Russia with chilling implications: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?” Perhaps I shouldn’t argue with the accuracy of this quote – without sounding like I’m wearing a tin foil hat – but perhaps more worrying is the publicity of those views. The public admission of state authorised violence sounds like something out of the most steroid-packed run-through of the Rambo quartet; at the same time, the rationalisation of talk such as this puts America at jeopardy of being the submissive partner in this so-called “relationship”.
It suggests that America has gone as low as condoning human rights atrocities to merely form a relationship which has been “in need of repair” since the inception of the USSR. The history between the two superpowers has been always been turbulent, but has largely been controlled by the elderly man sitting on the west side of the Pacific, the most perfect of which being Ronald Reagan. His infamous 1987 “Tear down this wall” speech has epitomised this relationship for three decades; a harsh and opposing one necessary to protect national interests, or the interests of their allies. With the dawn of Trump, this may just be lost.