Months of Russia controversy leaves Trump ‘boxed in’ ahead of Putin meeting
WARSAW – Trump’s president promised voters that he would hit “a lot” with Russia and its autocratic president Vladimir Poutine. He called several times during an investigation into Russia’s interference in US elections as “false” and even boasted of Russian authorities to dismiss the FBI director who led the investigation.
Now, almost six months after his presidency, Trump must finally meet Putin at a summit this week in Hamburg after a stop here in Warsaw – severely limited and expensive few good options that politically uninhibited.
If Trump tries to loosen sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine or its interference in the US elections in 2016, Congress could challenge continued strong sanctions.
And if it offers commonplaces for Putin, without addressing Russia’s electoral interference, it will renew questions about whether Trump accepts the results of his own intelligence officials according to which Russia intends to disrupt the democratic process on his behalf.
“The president is in a box,” said Nicholas Burns, who was US ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. “Why would you give Putin a kind of concession at the first meeting? What have you done to deserve this?
He added: “If you try to bend the favor, offer concessions, take the pressure, which will benefit the weakness in the void ..
Senators introduced a provision on June 12 to punish Moscow for alleged interference in the 2016 elections, annexation of the Crimea of Ukraine and support for the Syrian government.
Already, Moscow claims the Trump administration send two Russian compounds the United States that have seized the Obama administration in revenge for Russia’s interference in the elections. And the Trump government reported in May that it would be open to returning property.
But in the Senate, it is not rare unanimity in favor of harsh sanctions against Russia. Last month, the Senate voted 97-2 for a bill that would put new sanctions on Russia’s electoral interference and Trump would limit the ability to lift the existing sanctions.
The White House was forced to intensify its pressure from Republicans in the House to delay the progress of a similar measure.
Among foreign policy experts who supports Trump’s willingness to improve relations with Russia, it is more frustrating that the current political climate and Trump’s actions have made that goal almost impossible.
“It was extraordinarily difficult for Trump, even if he had the means to do it, you have to do what is of vital national interest, that is, to improve relations with Russia,” said Jack Matlock, ambassador to the Soviet Union under Ronald Reagan. “To treat as an enemy, it is absolutely absurd, however, that impregnates much of the attitude in Congress.”
Trump administration, meanwhile, has made progress on several fronts to soften the US stance in Russia.