By Luan Hai
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual year-end press conference on December 20 and answered various questions in relation to Russian internal affairs and diplomacy. The diplomatic hot topics mentioned by Putin, are closely related to the relationship between Russia and the West, in particular the Russia-US relations, including the Syrian conflict, the issue of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, as well as the crisis between Russia and Ukraine over the Kerch Strait incident.
Russian experts on international issues believed that Russia and the United States face a mix of issues unsolved in recent years due to their positions conflict and the interest diverged. All the harsh rhetoric and accusations from the two sides are inflammatory, and their bilateral ties have continued to worsen. Under the vicious circle of tightening pressure from the United States and counter-measures by Russia, it is easy to imagine that the bilateral relations will be hard to mend.
Tense Russia-US relations become a notion of normality.
In recent years, although Russia and the United States have repeatedly tried to reset some of basic principles to improve the bilateral relations, including non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), resolution of regional crises and conflicts, combating terrorism, and maintaining cyber-security, the results are insignificant due to their different positions on these major regional and global issues.
Bogdanov, an associate professor of the School of International Relations at St. Petersburg State University, Moscow, Russia, said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency that relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated over the last decade due to the distinct differences between thetwo sides. The conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008, the chaos in West Asia and North Africa started since 2010, theWestern military intervention inLibya and the outbreak of Syrian civil war in 2011, andthe aggravated crisis in eastern Ukrainein 2014, all of which have contributed to the tension between Russia and the United States.
Sanctions are a tool for the United States to exert pressure on Russia. The Western countries headed by the United States have repeatedly stepped up sanctions against Russia. Experts pointed out that the main reason for the US sanctions against Russia is not the specific events such as the Ukrainian crisis or the "poisoning" of a former Russian agent, but the lack of consensus on the security issues at the regional, national and global levels between the two countries.
For example, the Russia-US contradictions on Middle East affairs such as the Syrian crisis, come from the differing views of the two countries on how to ensure security in the Middle East.
Bogdanov said: "Russia believes that if it is to safeguard Syria's security, its sovereignty and territorial integrity must be safeguarded as the top priority, and the US military interventions in Syria, such as the US intervention in the 2003 Iraq war, should not be allowed. While the US believes that in order to solve the Syrian issue, it is necessary to clear the 'unfriendly' regimes to the US in Syrian territory and to maintain the status of its allies."
Russia wants to get out of trouble with both domestic and external strength.
In response to the disputes between Russia and the United States, Russia has strengthened its close ties with traditionally friendly countries and countries with potential to cooperate, such as strengthening the China-Russia-India cooperation mechanism,working with Turkey and Iran to promote the political settlement on the Syrian issue, and enhancing cooperation and exchanges with some countries from the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, as well as certain European countries that are friendly to Russia, in the different fields of economy, trade, military technology and energy.
In terms of military, Russia has continuously developed hypersonic missiles in order to pursuing a strategy of containment, new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), and nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicles. It has continuously improved the proportion of advanced weapons and equipment in Russian military and frequently conducted exercises and ad-hoc inspections on combat readiness.
In terms of finance, Russia has implemented a gradual de-dollarization policy and supported the expansion of international trade settlement in its local currency. Russia sold off a large amount of its US debt between March and May, with its holdings falling sharply from US$96.1 billion to US$14.9 billion. As a result, the level of US dollar assets of Russian banks has declined significantly.
Warming of Russia-US ties is hard.
The escalation of sanctions against Russia by the United States and the West and the counter-measures responded by Russia have created a vicious circle, which has deepened the sense of distrust and conflicts between Moscow and Washington. Russian experts are not hopeful for improving Russia-US relations.
Bogdanov said that the US Democratic Party gained its advantage in the House of Representatives through the midterm elections in November 2018, with the Republican Party's ruling status becoming more unstable.
In addition, Robert Mueller, special counsel for the United States Department of Justice, continues to investigate the US President Donald Trump's "possible collusion with Russia". Due to the potential risk of impeachment, Trump will have to insist on a tough policy toward Russia, for fear that the opposition may make it a peg to hang his political views.
In the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to tighten sanctions against Russia. This trend has already appeared in the recent actions and public opinion of the United States.
Olevich, a researcher at the Center for Real Political Research, a Russian independent non-commercial research institute, believed that the United States has no intention to "normalize" relations with Russia. He said that both the Trump administration and other US ruling groups regard Russia as a geopolitical opponent or enemy. The US is implementing a series of plans in the fields of military, politics, diplomacy, economy, and news communication, with a view to isolating Russia and weakening Russia's military, political and economic strength.
Olevich believed that with the existing international agreements, the United States is presently unable to win the game with Russia. Therefore, Washington has planned to withdraw from various international treaties, and constantly exerted pressure on Moscow on various "frontlines".
Moreover, the US doesn't tend to reach any new agreements on resolving major issues with Russia in order to maintain "the dominance of the United States in the world order". Consequently, Russia-US relations will not make significant progress in the near future, and are likely to continue to deteriorate.
Disclaimer: The author is Luan Hai, reporter with the Xinhua News Agency. The article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.