The US media are creating an impression that no other country is more influential than Russia. The union of Russian hackers and trolls has become a real nightmare for America and has led to deep paranoia. However, Russia’s influence in the United States is a myth, and a Russian lobby does not exist. This is borne out at least by the spasmodic attempts of Russian businesspeople to knock on doors in Washington because of the threat of falling under US sanctions.
Over the past month, Theresa May’s government has crafted a narrative that harks back to Great Britain’s greatest contributor to Cold War psychological operations — Ian Fleming. The media coverage of the Skripal case, the alleged chemical attack in Syria, and the military response to it play into London’s hands geopolitically by making Britain internationally relevant at a time when its divorce from the EU demonstrates the exact opposite.
Russian-Georgian relations have been deadlocked despite the nominal growth of trade and tourism from Russia and certain progress in the talks on the cargo transit via Abkhazia. Solutions to the problems that hinder bilateral relations can only be found in a new context based on new ideas. But first Russia and Georgia should decide if they need to improve their relations.
Tensions within Saudi Arabia and on its borders keep worsening. In the meantime, the young Crown Prince, who holds power over most vital domestic and external policies, continues multiplying mistakes. As was expected, 2017 witnessed the two mutually reinforcing tendencies. First, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the current Saudi King, held on to his course of strengthening his positions in power. Second, tensions kept increasing within the royal family in the face of the upcoming change of the order of succession to the throne.
The US House of Representatives and Senate overwhelmingly adopted a Russia, Iran and North Korea sanctions bill. It predictably provoked a harsh response from Russian officials. The head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, called for a response that would be painful for Americans. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Washington is “a source of threat.”
But while the debate on what candidate’s policies and worldview may be more preferable for Russia continues, the overwhelming majority of the Russian political elite and expert community agree upon two things. First, the relationship in the White House is not one hundred percent defined by the person in the Oval Office. Second, since the current crisis between the two states has more profound roots and a long record of mutual grievances the relationship is unlikely to improve--while there’s plenty of potential for its deterioration.
The current fragmentation of the EU is an ongoing slow surprise for Moscow that it was not prepared for and that was in no way a result of Russia’s doings. Actually, Russia was expecting the EU to eventually consolidate and become an independent global player free of US patronage. Besides, it is easier to trade and relate with the single body in Europe, not facing the perspective of having 28 representatives at the table discussing minor trade or visa issues.
January was marked, above all else, by renewed U.S.-Russian dialogue on a range of international issues, including Syria. For example, conditions were set for inter-Syrian dialogue, although hopes for success there are very small. At the same time, the U.S. side is doing its share to ensure that initiatives for the positive development of U.S.-Russian relations become derailed by making provocative statements, such as the accusations made by U.S. Treasury Department official Adam Szubin about corruption within the Russian government.