The world should not fear the lack of sanctions on Russia by the United States because it could improve relations rather than led to a new war.
Should the world be fearful of an increasingly aggressive Russia in the face of a complacent American presidency? Many experts are saying that the lack of sanctions by the Trump administration on Russia regarding the conflict in Ukraine will lead to a more powerful and fearsome Russia. There is a notion that “Putin is the kind of person who, if you give him an inch, he takes ten miles.” Despite this prevalent discourse, there is another discourse that sees a light at the end of the tunnel with the recent lack of sanctions on Russia.
The Ukrainian conflict has been playing in the background of U.S.-Russia relations since 2014 when Russia saw the possibility that Ukraine would leave the Eurasian Economic Union and join the EU. When protests broke out in Ukraine during this time, flashbacks to the Color Revolutions instilled fear in Russia. The conflict truly began when Russia took Crimea, and began to support Eastern Ukrainian separatists in response to the perceived threat to Russian security. The United States took the side of Ukraine in opposition to Russia, and U.S.-Russia relations became defined by sanctions.
Recently, the conflict in Ukraine has escalated. The increased violence was instigated by the Ukrainian side. According to Boston College political science professor Gerald Easter, who specializes in Eastern European politics, the election of Donald Trump in the United States has jeopardized the Ukrainian status quo of monetary and military assistance from the United States. Thus, the current escalation is believed to be a test by Ukraine on the current US administration in order to ease their fears, but to the disappointment of Ukraine, the aggressive tactics of Russia were not met with sanctions. According to Gerald Easter, “they wanted to act before Trump and Putin come together and sign a deal that would determine the fate of the contested Ukrainian territories.”
The international community has expressed worry over the lack of U.S. action in the recent events in Ukraine. Gerald Easter does not foresee any more action by the current U.S. administration against Russia, but he is not alarmed. He says, “I don’t see Trump putting sanctions on Russia for anything. He is operating with a different playbook. I think Trump’s long term hope would be to remove the sanctions on Russia and bring things back to a state of normalcy. Frankly, it is reasonable to say that we are better off in a world in which we have a cooperative relationship with Russia than in one in which we have an antagonistic relationship.” He does not see the United States and Russia becoming best friends in the near future, but he says, “I can envision a return to a state where each country’s own interests lead to mutual cooperation in particular areas and a kind of normalcy could unfold, not unlike what the US has had with China.” Lack of sanctions on Russia could lead to more cooperation between the United States and Russia and in turn create new diplomacy tactics that will make the world a safer place.