US, Russia hurtle toward dangerous escalation - Full Gist NG


Thursday, 3 August 2017

US, Russia hurtle toward dangerous escalation

The United States and Russia are plunging deeper into their worst crisis since the Cold War, with politics in both nations outpacing the capacity of either government to mitigate the danger.

President Donald Trump's grudging signature on new sanctions punishing Russia for alleged meddling in last year's US election sparked an explosive rhetorical response in Moscow on Wednesday.

But the perilous situation is also being exacerbated by the lack of a clear White House approach toward Russia. A simultaneous policy of accommodation and confrontation toward Moscow combined with a tussle for influence between Congress and the President threaten to sow confusion that could increase the chances of a miscalculation between the two nuclear-armed foes.
"I think it is very unclear exactly where the administration intends to go in our dealings with Russia or how it intends to put together a coherent strategy for dealing with Moscow," said George Beebe, a former director of Russia analysis for the CIA.
"I think there is actually a very real risk that we could get into an escalatory spiral that would be difficult for either country to control," said Beebe, now with the Center for the National Interest.

Moscow's protests on Wednesday after Trump signed the sanctions bill reflected fury at the new constraints on the Russian economy -- and perhaps also political pressures that left the government little option but to escalate the situation.
And for the first time, there was a note of personal contempt for Trump himself, which may reflect disappointment in Moscow that the President was unable to make good on his promise to improve relations with Russia.
"The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles," said Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in a Facebook post. "The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill."
The attack followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement on Sunday that the US must cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people, in a delayed response to the seizure of Russian compounds and the expulsion of 35 diplomats by the Obama administration to punish the alleged election meddling.
The sanctions bill, passed with veto-proof majorities in Congress, reflected bipartisan skepticism over Trump's motivations toward Russia and fueled impressions the White House can't control its own foreign policy.

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