Top Trump envoys signal no quick changes to US-Russia ties
The Trump administration signaled Thursday there will be no change soon in U.S.-Russian relations, putting the onus on Moscow to prove itself if it wants closer cooperation with Washington.
Russia’s support for Ukrainian separatists was underscored as a test case of its willingness to change behavior.
At a NATO meeting in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made clear the United States isn’t ready to collaborate militarily with its former Cold War foe against the Islamic State or other threats, a long-standing goal of the Kremlin’s which new U.S. President Donald Trump says he wants, too.
After meeting with Russia’s top diplomat in Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Moscow first must help stop violence in Ukraine.
The comments appeared to put the brakes on a rapid transformation in U.S.-Russian ties, which have been badly strained by fighting in Ukraine and Syria as well as by American accusations of Russian interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election. European countries close to Russia’s border have been especially alarmed by the prospects of U.S.-Russian rapprochement, given Trump’s references to NATO as “obsolete” and his repeated praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Russia is going to have to prove itself first,” Mattis said. Nations will seek “a way forward where Russia, living up to its commitments, will return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO,” he explained.
But he made clear that a significant attitude change is required by leaders in Moscow, declaring that there is “very little doubt that they have either interfered or they have attempted to interfere in a number of elections in the democracies.”