Yesterday, President Donald Trump met with his contemporary, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, for discussions on supporting peaceful resolutions to the conflict in eastern Ukraine — as well as Poroshenko’s anticorruption efforts and reform agenda.
“We’ve had some very, very good discussions,” the president said in their joint appearance at the Oval Office. I think a lot of progress has been made.” As Trump was holding this meeting, the Treasury Department issued a new series of sanctions on Russia. (via Associated Press)
The sanctions target Russian officials and organizations that are accused of helping Russia tighten its hold over Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Designated individuals include two Russian government officials, as well as over three dozen other individuals and organizations.
This move comes after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to add another round of sanctions against Russia, standing against what was previously seen by many as Trumps plan to soften Washington’s stance towards the Kremlin. This willingness to repair ties with Russia have become all the more complicated by Russian-related scandals constantly being emphasized by the media.
“Our relationship is at the lowest level it’s been at since the Cold War and it’s spiraling down,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said to the Senate in last week’s hearing.
“The two greatest nuclear powers in the world cannot have this kind of relationship. We have to stabilize it and we have to start finding a way back,” he added.
Despite this, the latest stream of sanctions isn’t helping to ease the situation. On Monday, Russia threatened to shoot down U.S. warplanes over Syrian after a U.S. Navy fighter shot down a Syrian warplane.
Just today, videos surfaced of a NATO F-16 fighter plane that came dangerously close to the Russian defense minister’s plane that was flying over the neutral Baltic Sea only to be warded off by a Russian fighter jet. (via CNN)
It seems that Rex Tillerson’s opinions are justifiable considering the tensions of recent developments.
Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke at a joint news briefing in Moscow alongside his French counterpart, where he remarked that the new sanctions are “regrettable” and that “Russophobia” in the U.S. was developing “beyond all bounds.”
This development has led to Russia canceling its planned meeting between senior U.S. and Russian officials originally aimed at improving relationships between the two nations. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and U.S. Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon were supposed to participate in this discussion in St. Petersburg.
“As we know, in the next few days there were plans to continue the bilateral consultations on the ‘irritants’ that we have accumulated in our Russian-American relations, plans to find ways out of the extremely difficult situation in which the American side wore the partnership and cooperation with Russia down,” read a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“After yesterday’s decision on sanctions, the situation does not allow for a round of such dialogue, especially as there is no content for it, since Washington didn’t offer nor is offering now anything specific,” the ministry continued.
As tensions continue to mount between the two countries, we should remember that despite our political differences, Russia has always and still is a predominantly Christian country with the majority of its population practicing the Orthodox Christian faith — a fact that we can forget amidst the current storm of geopolitical tensions.