MacroGeo Cable

Russia and the US to reach a tactical agreement? Don’t hold your breath

Russia, Middle East and North Africa, East Asia

Times are still not ripe for a truce, as one can glean by reading geopolitics leafs

In the wake of Trump’s election, MacroGeo explained why the world shouldn’t expect Russia and the US to strike a strategic bargain and why the two cold war foes were bound for more of the same clashing in the months ahead.

Notwithstanding the ongoing probe into Trump’s entourage alleged links to the Kremlin, now several pundits and analysts across the globe seem to expect Moscow and Washington to at least reach a tactical agreement.

They mostly envisage the US allowing for Ukraine to stay neutral for the time being in exchange for Russia’s help with solving the North Korean nuclear crisis or with curbing Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

A tactical deal can certainly be brokered. However, as of now geopolitical signals point in the opposite direction.

In Ukraine Putin has been working hard to soothe tensions so as to prepare for a compromise. But a few days ago the US administration let out that Trump is deciding on the dispatch of lethal weapons for Ukraine’s government in order for Kiev to sustain itself against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.

It could well be a tactical ruse and Trump won’t ever allow for such a dispatch.

But broaching the topic at this stage clearly means that Washington can only offer for Ukraine to stay a frozen conflict as it has been for more than three years.

Not exactly the grand bargain Putin was hoping for when in 2015 he decided to militarily intervene in Syria so as to gain a credit to be spent in Ukraine.

As for the Middle East, in the past weeks Putin has pivoted to the ongoing Iran-Turkey alignment, to the immediate detriment of Russia’s oil interests in the Iraqi Kurdistan, as proven by Moscow backing Baghdad in the dispute with Arbil.

Likewise Russia has been working closely with Teheran in Syria, even though a stronger Iran doesn’t bode well for Russia’s strategic goals in the region.

A couple of forced moves the Kremlin would have certainly discarded if only US-Russia ties had improved.

Lastly, at the end of October Trump issued a rare critique of Russia for being unhelpful in dealing with North Korea, saying «China is helping us and maybe Russia’s going through the other way and hurting what we’re getting from Pyongyang».

While in the past months Washington has often accused Moscow of helping Pyongyang offset China’s decrease in oil exports to North Korea, Trump’s rant now confirms that Russia and the US remain far apart.

Maybe in the medium run Washington and Moscow will reach a tactical agreement – a truce, more accurately – which would most likely involve the Middle East or North Korea.

But times are still not ripe, as one can glean by reading geopolitics leafs.