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Even more confusion

Sep 05,2017 - Last updated at Sep 05,2017

The expulsion of hundreds of US diplomats by Russia has all the marks of the Cold War era, but is it?

The Russian president said the US will have to cut its diplomatic staff in his country by 755, seemingly in reaction to the additional economic sanctions imposed by the US Congress on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election — Russia reportedly did so by hacking e-mails in order to improve Donald Trump’s chances to get elected president — and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Trump signed the congressional bill imposing sanctions on Russia, “for the sake of national unity”, but called it “seriously flawed” and “clearly unconstitutional”.

It is thus hard to know who really is running the US foreign policy, seeing that Trump openly embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin from day one in the White House, considering him a true friend with whom he can do business.

Yet, the differences between the US and Russia are actually multiplying, including over Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, Libya, NATO encroachments along Russia’s western border, Iraq and   even the extent of control over the North Pole, a bone of contention among several countries abutting this territory.

Still, after all the bromance between the leaders of the two countries, it is difficult to judge whether all that is going on between them is for show or for real.

Apparently it all depends on who really calls the shots in Washington.

Trump’s administration is in disarray after several key advisers were replaced after only few months in office, and his declared policies were challenged by US institutional interests.

In the case of the sanctions, Trump had no choice but sign the bill, but said he would “implement them in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations”, suggesting that he might work to mitigate its provisions.

Russia is no match for the US, knowing that the Russian economy is no more than one tenth of the US’ economic strength. After all, economic power is what really counts at the end of the day.

Still, the Russian Federation is a mighty power and it could pose a real challenge to the US and its Western allies, as it proved in Ukraine and Syria, for example, where the geopolitical reality now favours Moscow.

It is hoped that when things get settled in Washington, normal bilateral relations between the two superpowers are restored on institutional basis.

 

That should help the international order, in disarray now in several parts of the world due to the rise of extreme right groups, bellicose posturing and lack of respect for international law and norms that used to guide humanity till not so long ago.

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