With The Diplomat, I tried to cut through the intrigue and investigations surrounding Trump's ties to Russia to take a look at something a bit firmer - how US policy has changed toward Russia under the new administration:
All the while, though, Washington’s post-Soviet policy continues ahead — and continues, some four months into Trump’s tenure, largely unchanged. If anything, Washington’s current Russia policy has been placed in something of a “receivership,” as American University Professor Keith Darden recently noted: The White House, the theory goes, can’t be seen as soft on Russia, as any move toward conciliation – say, via lifting sanctions — would be spun as simple outgrowth of Moscow pulling the president’s strings. As such, any move toward an Obama-style reset has been effectively strangled in the crib, snuffed out before the president could embrace Russian President Vladimir Putin.
If anything, there are indications Washington has actually moved even further from the possible reconciliation that Russia, with its beleaguered economy, has sought. Not only did Trump authorize airstrikes against Russia’s Syrian partners, but the Treasury Department recently turned down Exxon’s request for a sanctions waiver, helping prolong the sanctions regime denting Russia’s economy.
Moreover, Trump recently signed an appropriations bill that not only furthers Obama-era policies regarding Russian expansionism, but explicitly singled out Russian culpability in unsettling other post-Soviet states. The massive bill, signed by Trump on May 5, devoted an entire section to “countering Russian influence and aggression.” Unlike prior appropriation bills, the new law specifically describes Russia’s ongoing occupation of the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as just that: occupation. Unlike bills in 2015 and 2016, the 2017 version notes that none “of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for assistance [to a country that] has recognized the independence of, or has established diplomatic relations with, the Russian occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.”