Un­re­li­able: Rus­sia sours on Trump

Hawke's Bay Today - - World - Rus­sia

Don­ald Trump may have stood up Vladimir Putin once too of­ten. Af­ter the US pres­i­dent snubbed the Krem­lin leader twice in less than a month, Rus­sia is fi­nally los­ing faith in Trump's prom­ise to im­prove re­la­tions and brac­ing in­stead for in­creased ten­sions.

Feted by Rus­sian law­mak­ers with cham­pagne af­ter his elec­tion in 2016, Trump's mer­cu­rial de­ci­sion-mak­ing is in­creas­ingly seen as a li­a­bil­ity. Rus­sian of­fi­cials were taken aback when Trump tweeted he was can­celling talks with Putin at the Group of 20 sum­mit hours be­fore they were to meet last week. Since then, Rus­sian frus­tra­tion has grown, ac­cord­ing to four se­nior of­fi­cials, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied.

“This is a sig­nal for us that it's dif­fi­cult to deal with this per­son, that he's un­re­li­able and un­suit­able as a partner,” said An­drey Kor­tunov, head of the Rus­sian In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs Coun­cil, set up by the Krem­lin. “Rus­sian pa­tience is com­ing to an end.”

The fail­ure in Buenos Aires fol­lowed can­celled talks be­tween Trump and Putin in Paris on Novem­ber 11. It was the third such dis­ap­point­ment in 12 months, punc­tur­ing lin­ger­ing Rus­sian hopes of a break­through in US re­la­tions. As Putin warns of a new arms race over Trump's threat to aban­don a land­mark nu­clear treaty, the Krem­lin's left it­self with lit­tle al­ter­na­tive than to dig in for con­fronta­tion over US de­mands.

While Trump in­vited Putin to visit Wash­ing­ton at their Helsinki sum­mit, that's now “out of the ques­tion”, Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. They were un­likely to meet again be­fore the next G-20 sum­mit in June, he said.

The dis­il­lu­sion­ment with Trump may mean Rus­sia takes a harder line in talks on is­sues in­clud­ing arms control, Ukraine and Syria and the Ira­nian nu­clear ac­cord. It may also re­tal­i­ate against pos­si­ble US sanc­tions.

The US has ac­cused Rus­sia of re­peat­edly en­gag­ing in “ma­lign be­hav­iour” since Trump took of­fice, mak­ing it po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult for him to work to im­prove re­la­tions even if he wanted to.

Ten­sions may spike fur­ther in com­ing months if the US de­cides to im­pose fresh sanc­tions over al­leged Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling. The State Depart­ment may add penal­ties un­der a law in­voked af­ter a nerve-agent at­tack on a for­mer spy in the UK Rus­sia de­nies in­volve­ment.

Even as Congress and the White House ratch­eted up sanc­tions, the Krem­lin worked tire­lessly to em­brace Trump. Putin de­clared in Helsinki in July that he'd wanted Trump to win the elec­tion.

Rus­sian state tele­vi­sion, which for­merly lauded Trump, now ridicules him. “First he says it will hap­pen, then it won't,” said Evgeny Popov, host of the 60 Min­utes news pro­gramme. “This is just stu­pid­ity, he seems to be an un­bal­anced in­di­vid­ual. Trump was never our friend — never!”

Se­nior mem­bers of the rul­ing United Rus­sia party even said they re­gret­ted Trump's vic­tory.

Don­ald Trump

Vladimir Putin

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