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Russia-U.S. relations in a state of flux

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ROCKY RELATIONSHIP — Presidents Obama and Putin
have had their share of disagreements during Obama’s eight years in office. (The New York Times)

U.S.-Russian relations have never been the most cordial of international relationships. Indeed, for many years they were as far from cordial as one can get without full-out war being declared. While these things seem to have passed, recently Russia and the U.S. have been butting heads once again. It has been well documented, with allegations of hacking and subversion being leveled at Russia, while they continue to hold the West, America in particular, in a certain contempt. As tensions mount, the reasons become more and more obfuscated. Indeed, it can be difficult to sort through the myriad of underhanded comments, allegations, outright bad-mouthing and other sources of tension, not the least of which is Russian military aggression in eastern Europe,and an American obsession with Russian hackers.

It is important to understand that it is not as if the Cold War culminated with America and Russia kissing and making up. In reality, it can be interpreted that Russia, much more affected by WWII than America, simply could no longer keep up. In fact, Reagan and Gorbachev met to reign in the arms race, a meeting that has been initiated by the Soviets in an attempt to reign in their military expenditures that had been spiraling out of control. A few years later the Soviet nation collapsed as periphery states began leaving the Soviet Union via revolution or otherwise. All this goes to say, the Cold War was never really resolved so to speak; many of the animosities and much of the tensions remained. Indeed, the major change was that the Soviet Union ceased to be the world power it was.

Vladimir Putin is in the business of changing that. Whatever else happened and will happen, so far he has made a clear bid to become a world power again, and it seems to be working. What it does is bring back into the forefront of international relations with Russia the animosity that existed post World Wars. Especially as Russia proves its dominance in eastern Europe. The perfect example of which was the Russian invasion of Crimea. In February 2014, Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in one of the few modern conquests. Combined with the Russian support of Ukrainian rebels in other parts of country, which, according to the BBC including troops and military vehicles being provided to the rebels, Russia has clearly made a challenge to NATO supremacy in Europe. For all intents and purposes, Russia has become territorially aggressive, seeking to return to the landmass of Soviet days. Coupled with their handling of Syria and clear economic growth, Putin has wasted no time in establishing Russia as a world power again, capable of meaningful military intervention worldwide and domestically. This has only contributed to rising tensions with the U.S. who is part of coalition forces massed in eastern Europe and who also considered intervening in Syria before Russia did so.

American discontent with Russia recently hit a low, not only over military aggressiveness, but much more so over alleged hacking from the Kremlin. Starting in 2014 when a U.S. cyber security firm asserted that Russia had been hacking Asia, U.S. and European companies in order to gain economic advantage. Since then, America has seen Russia as a cyber giant waiting to strike. Fast forward to the 2016 election, the latest hacking scandal in which Russia was indicated to have hacked the DNC and released information damaging only to Hillary Clinton. The U.S. has now formally accused Russia of tampering in the election, adding to tensions mounting between the super powers. Putin calls it “rubbish” according to Guardian, who also reports that, according to the Kremlin, hackers attack every country all the time and that the Russian command had nothing to do with the hacking. Yet, the U.S. officially claims they are responsible, which calls into question the election and deepens mistrust and distaste between Russia and America.

Tensions are mounting. The U.S. sees the Russians as aggressive both at home and abroad and as the aggressors in a series of interacting between the U.S. and Russia that leave it easy to recall the Cold War. Indeed, the Guardian reports the deputy foreign minister Sergei Rybakova having said: “This whipping up of emotions regarding ‘Russian hackers’ is used in the U.S. election campaign, and the current U.S. administration, taking part in this fight, is not averse to using dirty tricks.” With sentiments nearly mirroring this statement deeply ingrained in the U.S., it becoming increasingly worrying as to how these issue will be resolved, because as of right now, the U.S. and Russia seem to be re-entering a race for dominance of a world scale, while both belittle and accuse each other of more and more.

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