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Putin’s recent unveiling of an “invincible” nuclear missile has dealt a fresh blow to U.S.-Russia relations. The announcement about the development of a new range of strategic nuclear missile came just weeks ahead of the Russian presidential election. Putin’s claims on rendering US and NATO missile technology ‘useless’ seemed more than just domestic muscle-flexing; it was almost a direct declaration of its disapproval of Trump’s foreign policy.

Election and the Russian Collusion

Trump’s win had fuelled speculations about greater diplomatic cooperation between the former cold war rivals. In his presidential campaign, Trump had frequently heaped praises at his Russian counterpart. So it was no surprise when he said that he would “love to be able to get along with Russia”. But a year after Trump assumed office, relations nosedived and sanctions remained water-tight.

Ties plunged into chaos when reports emerged detailing Russia’s meddling in the U.S. elections to tip the results in favour of Trump. A Special Counsel Investigation questioned several individuals connected to Trump’s election campaign. The probe eventually led to the resignation of Michael Flynn as the National Security Advisor after it emerged that he had withheld information about his contacts in Russia. The situation was further exacerbated when former FBI director James Comey levelled allegations against Trump  stating that he was fired because of the agency’s probe into possible Russian interference. It was however the news of Trump Junior’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya , in exchange for critical information about the Clinton campaign that dealt the final blow.

But Why the Policy Chaos?

With the collusion theory gaining traction, Trump’s administration faced heavy criticism for “undermining the U.S. democracy”. Following this, it abandoned its rapprochement policy and focussed on aggressively denying allegations of collusion with Russia. Since then, engagement has oscillated between ambiguity and hostility, irking Russia on many occasions.

Russia’s expectations of a conciliatory U.S. first took a hit when Trump ordered an air strike in Syria last year in response to a gas attack which left scores dead. A few months later in November, the two leaders agreed that that there was “no military solution” to the Syrian conflict and signed a joint statement. The agreement failed to make any political breakthrough and the war-torn Syria continues to witness ceasefire violations.

Trump’s repeated threats of pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal have also met with Russian hostility. Sergei, Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, condemned Trump’s remarks and called it an “attack on Iran”. Though Trump’s warnings have pushed for a fresh round of talks between U.S. and Europe, Russia looks visibly upset with his demands.

North Korea has emerged as the latest thorn between U.S. and Russia. After sparring with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over who had the “bigger nuclear button”, Trump recently blamed Russia for undermining international sanctions on North Korea.

Should the U.S. be worried?

A statement from the White House downplayed the nuclear development and asserted that “U.S. capabilities were second to none.” Putin’s rhetoric on the other hand, hinted at the escalating “arms race”, a situation almost reminiscent of cold war decades.

Since Trump’s election, Washington has repeatedly escalated tensions with Kremlin while making little progress on the poll promise of rapprochement. In order to navigate through contentious issues such as Crimea and Iran, the Trump led administration should be open to addressing Russian concerns regarding American nuclear capabilities.

The announcement of Russia’s latest nuclear missile is a clarion call for the U.S. to look at its Russia policy beyond the prism of the 2016 elections. It would thus be pragmatic for the Trump administration to extend complete cooperation with investigation about collusion at home, while focusing on shifting the gear from sanctions to trade and security.  To douse the heightened pressure, U.S. and Russia should make sustained efforts towards dialogue, engagement and an eventual détente.

Reference and Sources:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/01/europe/putin-russia-missile-intl/index.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-putin-nuclear/putin-before-election-unveils-new-nuclear-weapons-to-counter-west-idUSKCN1GD514

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/sanders-us-defense-will-remain-second-to-none/2018/03/01/97ff3ec4-1d8b-11e8-98f5-ceecfa8741b6_video.html?utm_term=.0dea7eeed971

V Padmaja is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism from AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia. Her areas of interest include international affairs, politics and women’s rights. She can be reached at Twitter @PadmajaVraman.

2 Comments

  1. Sally Dugman says:

    I had to turn into a social activist when I was five years old. That’s right — five years old. You can read about it at the link located below.

    Frankly I’ve had enough throughout my whole life of this nuclear madness:

    I could only watch ten minutes of this movie, “Atomic Homefront.” It was that disturbing to me that I couldn’t endure the totality, but a friend of mine made it all the way through to the end.

    After the movie was done, I reminded him of Kissinger’s comment: ‘Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.’

    I, then, added that we are just cattle to our government. Our individual lives matter not at all. Whether we live, die or get contaminated by illegally dumped radioactive waste matters not to our government operatives.

    His reply was that one part of the movie (a part that I had not seen) involved a woman who lost many family members to radioactive poisoning at Chernobyl. So she moved to Missouri with her daughter (perhaps her only surviving relative from the Russian incident) and she landed straight on top of Manhattan Project waste (waste from the atomic bombs used against Japan by the USA) in her new community, which she’d thought would be a lovely, peaceful place to live out her remaining days with her daughter. How dreadful is that?

    Excerpts from “‘Atomic Homefront’ – How A Story About The Threat To Local Journalism Joined A Crusade Against Government Inaction On Radioactive Waste”:

    “Cammisa recalled being stonewalled by the EPA, learning about the science behind the story, the history of the Manhattan Project to develop the Bomb.”

    “People had no idea, and they were shocked, she said. “This stuff is everywhere. There are communities at risk that don’t know what to do. It is an absolute nightmare.

    The Wall Street Journal has a page called “Wasteland,” where they really dig in to how many radioactive sites there are around the country. Their data lists 517 sites around the country – that they know about.”

    As an aside, here are three points:

    One: When I read that there was a nuclear waste site not far north from NYC, I immediately thought that it was sited in Mount Kisco. You see, MK is a relatively poor and somewhat uneducated Italian community. God forbid that anyone would dump this misery into nearby Chappaqua with its middle class and upper class neighborhoods (where H. and W. Clinton live), and where the population is relatively very well educated. … I should know as I lived there in C. for some time as a child. It turns out that I was right. Yup, MK is the dump site.

    Two: MK is not too far from part of the NYC water reservoir. It is also not far from the elderly Indian Point Nuclear plant that leaks nuclear materials into the Hudson River, ground water, air and land. It is also built onto a major geographical fault line and is soon to be FINALLY decommissioned, which should have happened many years ago.

    What a bunch of ignorant, self-centered, immoral people regulate such extremely dangerous nuclear operations and decisions! Unbelievable!

    Three: I’ve frankly had it up to the hilt when it come to nuclear damage and starting with this:
    What Version Of The Future Do We Want? – Countercurrents
    https://countercurrents.org/2017/10/19/what-version-of-the-future-do-we-want/
    in Life/Philosophy — by Sally Dugman — October 19, 2017 … (I’d been told in advance of attending Meeting that a group of women, ones called Hiroshima Maidens from a far away land, would be joining us as Friendly families were hosting them while they received medical aid at a local hospital for grave damages caused …

    Next I read this book when I was eleven years old:
    On the Beach (novel) – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Beach_(novel)
    On the Beach is a 1957 post-apocalyptic novel written by British-Australian author Nevil Shute after he emigrated to Australia. The novel details the experiences of a mixed group of people in Melbourne as they await the arrival of deadly radiation spreading towards them from the Northern Hemisphere following a nuclear …
    ‎On the Beach (2000 film) · ‎On the Beach (1959 film) · ‎Nevil Shute

    Next I lived in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a child and we had a little family meeting — a pow-wow — about whether we should move to NZ or not since building a nuclear proof shelter would not work, especially for the time duration needed for its use.

    Next I saw a Xerox Corp. film, a public service film, when I was fourteen about the impacts of nuclear radiation. It even included dead human babies born of Japanese women that looked like weird frogs.

    Then I read that people in Iraq ask after giving birth not is it a boy or a girl. They ask is it normal.

    I could share with you even more, but I covered my main points pretty well and it is as a composite the reason that I won’t watch this film. I’ve already endured enough.
    Depleted uranium – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium
    Jump to Ammunition – In a three-week period of conflict in Iraq during 2003, it was estimated that over 1000 tons of depleted uranium munitions were used. More than 300,000 DU rounds were fired during the 2003 war, the vast majority by US troops.
    ‎History · ‎Military applications · ‎Civilian applications · ‎Health considerations
    Depleted Uranium And The Iraq War’s Legacy Of Cancer
    https://www.mintpressnews.com/depleted-uranium-iraq-wars-legacy-cancer/193338/
    Jul 2, 2014 – Depleted uranium was used in Iraq warzone weaponry, and now kids are playing in contaminated fields and the spent weapons are being sold as scrap metal.


    ATOMIC HOMEFRONT reveals St. Louis, Missouri’s atomic past as a uranium processing center for the Atomic bomb and the governmental and corporate negligence that lead to the illegal dumping of Manhattan Project radioactive waste throughout North County neighborhoods. Our film is a case study of how citizens are confronting state and federal agencies for the truth about the extent of the contamination and are fighting to keep their families safe. – From Atomic Homefront (2017) – IMDb

    There is an evocative short video at this link: “‘Atomic Homefront’: Film Review”.

    “HBO’s Atomic Homefront Will Make You Furious”

  2. I don’t see any rapprochement in the US-Russia relations. Both Trump and Putin are playing for domestic politics. Trump needs to position himself as the macho-man for his second term election, while Putin needs to play .the role of guy who will take the Russia to the greatness it enjoyed as USSR during the cold – war era. Hopefully, for the world’s interest, they will not do nothing more than posturing and symbolic strikes against each other..