The United States and its allies are increasingly frustrated over malign activities by Russia. Moscow wages war in Ukraine, abets brutality in Syria, interferes in elections, and poisons opponents. In response, Washington has imposed sanctions and closed Russian consulates in San Francisco and Seattle and vacation estates in Maryland and New York, all believed to be used by Vladimir Putin’s government for intelligence purposes. This week the U.S. unveiled new sanctions, and is expected to impose even more in the future.
On the heels of his historic meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump will now hold his first formal summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. Their agenda will likely include the main sources of strain in relations, such as Ukraine, Syria, and election interference. Russia's actions in these crucial areas cannot be ignored. Yet the presidents may also search for some common ground. They may find it easier to make concrete progress if they start with lower profile issues – as Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan did at their first summit, after years of tensions not unlike those of today.
Though they share key economic interests and oppose what they say is a U.S.-dominated world order, the two nations’ relationship over time promises to be rocky.