Russia has announced that it would take retaliatory steps against the United States if its properties in Maryland and New York are not returned soon. The representatives of Russia and the United States were scheduled to meet in June to discuss the issue but it was postponed on the pretext that Washington was not yet prepared to discuss "sanctions" at higher level. The officials at the State Department opted to wait until the meeting between President Putin and President Trump at Hamburg scheduled on July 07 takes place. It was presumed that in his first meeting with Putin Trump would raise Russia's alleged meddling in the American presidential election and depending on Putin's response Washington would take the next step.
President Barack Obama, during his last days in the White House, based on unanimous conclusion of the intelligence agencies that the Russian government had colluded with Trump surrogates during the campaign trail and its agents had hacked the Democratic National Committees communication systems and interfered in the election against Hillary Clinton; expelled 35 Russian embassy officials stationed in Washington and seized the two premises occupied by Russian officials in Maryland and in New York. Notwithstanding denials from both Trump campaign team and Russian government, compelling evidences began to emerge almost at weekly frequency implicating senior officials of campaign team and close relatives of Trump having clandestine meetings with Russian individuals with close ties with President Putin or with his administration. The reports of collusion became so overwhelming that Michael Flynn, Trump's National Security Advisor, had to resign within two weeks in office and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began collecting evidences on alleged Russian meddling in the election.
On the sidelines of G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Trump reportedly raised alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election with Putin. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that Trump raised the issue multiple times and Putin emphatically denied. Following the meeting, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergio Lavrov told the media that Trump has accepted Putin's denial on interference in the US election. Since Trump has been lavishly praising Putin during the campaign trail and extolling the merits of intense collaboration with Russia and given the fact that alleged meddling in the electoral process benefited Trump, it would not have been prudent for Trump to denounce the meddling or indulge in an argument with his Russian counterpart. A senior official at the White House opined that it was time for the US-Russia relationship to move on and focus on the issues like North Korea's missile test, Syrian civil war, Iran's alleged breach of nuclear agreement that are threatening peace.
MUSLIM BAN, OBAMACARE: Trump administration in its six months in office could hardly address any major domestic or international issues. The ill-advised travel ban fell into a quagmire drawing worldwide condemnation as "Muslim ban" and now rests in the Federal Court for adjudication.
The Affordable Health Care bill passed by the House of Representatives drew nationwide criticism that it would deny 26 to 40 million, mostly low income earners, health services. The Senate has been reviewing the bill but many Republican Senators joined their Democratic colleagues in opposing the proposed bill. On July 17, the proposed Health Care bill became dead upon arrival at the Senate as three Republican Senators confirmed their opposition to the bill. Trump and his hawkish Republican colleagues suffered another major defeat by failing to master enough votes to repeal and replace the Obamacare.
WORLD LEADERSHIP: Trump's criticism of the NATO and the United Nations sent an alarm bell around the globe that the United States is no longer capable of providing leadership to the democratic world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Europeans to stand in their own feet as transatlantic partnership is on the wane. Germany declared significant increase in the defence spending and advised its European partners to do the same.
Trump's ingratiating relationship with Arab dictators and entering into defence deals worth billions in dollars with Saudi Arabia and UAE signals that commercial expediency matters most to Washington - a marked departure from previous government policies.
Following demarche from Paris Climate Agreement Trump now stands isolated in the international community.
Trump and his advisors have come to realise that Russia in partnership with Iran has consolidated its position in the troubled region of Syria and Iraq. With ISIS in retreat, Iraq will have much to do with Iran than with any other neighbours. Since Trump took office, Europe and the United States have pursued significantly different trajectory on Iran. The transatlantic divergence has cast doubt over the future of nuclear accord, which limits Iranian nuclear activities. Though the Trump administration has certified on July 17 to the Congress that Iran has continued to comply with the nuclear accord on the following day imposed another set of sanction against 12 Iranian entities for procurement of equipment for the Revolutionary Guards. "We judge these activities severely undermine the intent and Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action". In an interview with the CNN on July 16, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denounced Washington for making different interpretations of the nuclear accord. He argued that Iran has never surrendered pursuit of peaceful nuclear programme and said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the agency competent to verify nuclear programme, made multiple visits and certified that Iran has been in compliance of the accord.
Zarif made a robust defence of Tehran's intervention in Syria and Yemen and remonstrated that four-point peace plan that includes constitutional reform of institutions, ceasefire to allow the humanitarian assistance to reach to the people in need and general election is a pre-requisite for Syria's territorial integrity and Tehran remains committed to it. He warned Saudi Arabia against seeking a military solution of Yemen's political problem and suggested instead to devote on political discourse to restore peace in the region.
RUSSIA AND CHINA: Trump is unhappy with China for not doing enough to dissuade North Korea from shooting the "long range missile" capable of hitting the targets in the United States. Chinese navy vessels patrolling in the South China Sea in close proximity of Japanese, South Korean and Philippine's waters have irked the neighbours.
Under these circumstances, Trump has very little appetite to strain relationship with Moscow. He believes rapprochement with Moscow will facilitate peaceful co-existence. Experts however, disagree and point out that successive US presidents strived to mend fences with Russia, adopted conciliatory approach to promote world peace but were let down. They believe it is unlikely to happen now under the watch of an inexperienced politician like Trump.
Trump fervently wants to ease the sanction and return the properties to Russia but the Congress is unanimous not to rescind the sanction until Russia reverses its position on Ukraine and alleged meddling in the US presidential election is sorted out. The recent revelation that Trump's eldest son had met the Russians during the election campaign who promised to provide classified and damaging information of Trump's rival Hillary Clinton, made people further suspicious of Moscow's clandestine activities. The Special Counselor Robert Mueller has been in receipt of classified information about Trump's close relatives and campaign officials' having had secret meeting with Russian officials raises doubt about how long Trump himself could remain outside the purview of investigation. Trump has characterised the entire episode as witch-hunt and added that Mueller is out to implicate him. In that case, if Trump, in exasperation, decides to terminate Robert Mueller it will set in motion a political turmoil which will be hard for Trump to withstand.
The writer is a former official of the United Nations.