Trump's Promise Of Improved Relations With Russia Slipping Out Of Reach

Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia and the political hurdles President Trump faces at home are making it increasingly difficult for Trump to achieve his campaign goal of warmer relations between Washington and Moscow, according to political observers.

Trump’s decision last week to expel 60 Russian diplomats accused of secretly operating as intelligence officers prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to eject 60 American diplomats from his own country, escalating tensions that have simmered under the surface for months.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that relations are now worse than they were during the Cold War. And it may not get better anytime soon.

While Russia’s suspected role in poisoning an ex-spy living in the U.K. was the catalyst for the latest round of retaliation, Trump has come under increasing pressure at home and abroad to take tougher steps toward Moscow amid scrutiny of Russia’s aggression around the world. Trump has found his efforts to normalize ties with Moscow particularly difficult thanks to the special counsel’s investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said Trump likely aims to replicate the relative success he has had in improving relations with North Korea by maintaining a position in Russia that breaks with the status quo, even if doing so costs him the opportunity to take a victory lap on his latest moves.

"[Trump] would've been better served in the short term by trying to make the case that he is, in fact, being tough on Russia," O'Connell said. "This is a situation where you see a president deciding not to run the same playbook over and over again."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

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Analysis & Political Strategy