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Why Trump's Russia reset failed

Michael B. Kelley
Head of Audience Development

Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer that President Trump’s attempted detente with Russia got derailed by various forces beyond his control.

“Trump clearly wanted to have a reset with Russia,” Bremmer said. “It’s the one country he doesn’t ever say anything bad about, the one leader he never says anything bad about. … [Russian President Vladimir] Putin clearly felt like Trump was going to be a more positive outcome for the Russians, and it’s very clear that Trump can’t deliver. Can’t deliver because of his own administration. Can’t deliver because of the media. Can’t deliver because of Congress, which just voted overwhelmingly to toughen sanctions against the Russians.”

Trump raised eyebrows during the US presidential campaign with his effusive praise of Putin, although Trump had publicly spoken positively about Putin for at least two years before declaring his candidacy in June 2015. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is currently leading a wide-ranging investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

Bremmer noted that Trump’s apparent desire to be friendly with Putin “does make you feel this isn’t just about liking the strong man, but that there is something that we don’t know about that will come out with the Mueller investigations.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin talks to U.S. President Donald Trump during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

At the same time, Bremmer noted, Putin is capable of hurting the US further.

“We know that the Russians have a lot of intel … on the Republicans, and on Trump, just the way they do with the Democrats,” Bremmer said. “When are they going to start spilling it? When are they going to start doing things that are going to fundamentally embarrass Trump individually, and how will Trump respond?”

Bremmer added that “we’re on a trajectory that’s not really sustainable” given how Putin’s regime operates.

“Russia is a country that’s fundamentally declining, and as a consequence, their leadership is insecure about that,” Bremmer explained. “So their willingness to take risks while they’re still in a comparatively strong position is much higher.”

All things considered, the situation recalls a classic Putin story about his time interacting with rats as a boy in St. Petersberg.

“There, on that staircase, I figured out once and for all what the word ‘cornered’ means,” Putin said, according to a book of interviews published in 2000. “There were rats in the hallway. My friends and I would always chase them with sticks. Once I saw a huge rat and started pursuing it until I chased it into a corner. It had nowhere to run. So it turned around and threw itself at me. It was unexpected and very scary. Now the rat was chasing me.”


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