eyes on russia
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has drafted a three-point guide for the Trump administration's relations with Russia, BuzzFeed News reports. The classified document details these three points as: convey to Russian President Vladimir Putin "that aggressive actions against the United States are a losing proposition that will be counterproductive for both sides;" engage Russia "on issues that are of strategic interest to the United States"; and emphasize "the importance of 'strategic stability' with Russia," including "mutual geopolitical goals," BuzzFeed News writes based on conversations with a U.S. official.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer called the strategy "a mixture of pushing back and also engaging on issues where there might be convergence," but added, "If we've learned anything over the last four months, it's that the president could throw it out at any moment."
Tensions are high between the U.S. and Russia. On Monday, Russia criticized the United States for shooting down a Syrian government plane, announcing that any U.S.-led coalition planes that flew west of the Euphrates river would be considered enemy targets. Russia has been backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war.
Russia has also insisted that it be returned suspected intelligence compounds that were seized under former President Barack Obama after news of the country's meddling in last year's presidential election increasingly came to light. The U.S. wants Russia's cooperation in the war against terrorism in the Middle East as well as to put pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program; the State Department additionally wants permits to open a U.S. consular office in St. Petersburg.
As one State Department official put it to BuzzFeed News: "Right now, U.S.-Russia relations are in the gutter. We want to make sure it doesn't flush into the sewer."