Although Trump may want better relations with Russia, his hands are tied by threats emanating from the Establishment
The political divide in the United States has reached proportions not seen for over 150 years. Without understanding this divide, one cannot understand US-Russia relations today as the American domestic policy is becoming the key factor for their advancement.
The reason for the domestic political divide is the outcome of the US presidential election in 2016, and namely, that the candidate with the majority of votes did not win the presidency, as well as the total mismatch between expectations and the actual result.
Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by a huge margin. As the US Founding Fathers intended, pure democracy needed to be contained. They did not want “mob rule.”
If you look at an electoral map, you will see that Trump won by a sizable margin across the country, especially in what Americans call “The Heartland,” the traditional bedrock of American ideals. Clinton won the Northeast and the West Coast, including highly urbanized areas like New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. These cities contain the vast bulk of both US news and entertainment media plus traditional left-of center academic institutions.
The traditional political and media elites never expected Trump to win, up to and including election night. They are still in a state of shock. This colors everything going on in the US today.
The elites are trying to thwart Trump at every turn. They have latched on to accusations that Russia tampered with the US elections. During the campaign Trump was not anti-Russia. However, some fellow Republicans seem obsessed by the idea that Russia is the main enemy of the US.
Evidence of elite antipathy towards Trump includes the fact that the former head of the FBI admitted he deliberately leaked information with the intention of causing the naming of a Special Counsel to investigate Russian “interference” in the election. The danger for Trump is that a Special Counsel can go on a fishing expedition, looking into matters totally unrelated to Russia. It can easily be turned into a political witch-hunt. To make matters worse for Trump, an overwhelming majority of the Special Counsel’s staff supported Clinton.
Although Trump may want better relations with Russia, his hands are tied by threats emanating from the Special Counsel and from the Establishment. Sanctions are likely to remain in place for quite some time. At a minimum, they will not improve until the Special Counsel has concluded his investigation, which could be as short as several months, or more likely, it will drag on and on, especially given the make-up of the Special Counsel team.
Public opinion is a positive factor for the Russia-US relations. Recent polls show that a small majority of Americans believe Trump committed an illegal or unethical act involving Russia. However, 73 percent of Americans believe Trump did nothing wrong. Recent polls continue to show that by comfortable majorities, Americans are tired of hearing about the Russia issue, with it not likely affecting the important mid-term elections in November 2018. However, the on-going investigation by the Special Counsel means relations between the two countries will remain frosty for the foreseeable future. Trump has little other choice.