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Russia-US ties hard to recover, interests differ greatly

  • U.S. Army soldiers hold an American flag as they take part in the official welcome ceremony of the AMERICAN troops in Zagan, Poland, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The ceremony comes 23 years after the last Soviet troops entered Poland, and also marks a new historic moment, the first time that Western forces are deployed on a continuous basis to the NATO’s eastern flank. (AP Photo/Krzysztof Zatycki)

    (Associated Press)

  • A U. S. Army soldier plays with falling snow during the official welcome ceremony of the AMERICAN troops in Zagan, Poland, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The ceremony comes 23 years after the last Soviet troops entered Poland, and also marks a new historic moment, the first time that Western forces are deployed on a continuous basis to the NATO’s eastern flank. (AP Photo/Krzysztof Zatycki)

    (Associated Press)

  • The Polish Prime minister Beata Szydlo speaks during the official welcome ceremony of the AMERICAN troops in Zagan, Poland,Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The ceremony comes 23 years after the last Soviet troops entered Poland, and also marks a new historic moment, the first time that Western forces are deployed on a continuous basis to the NATO’s eastern flank. (AP Photo/Krzysztof Zatycki)

    (Associated Press)

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MOSCOW – The Kremlin hopes that Donald Trump will move to improving badly strained Russia-U.S. ties as soon as he takes office. The relations between Moscow and Washington are at their lowest point since the Cold War, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and other issues.

It would be a challenge to agree on a number of topics, even if the Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin both want to, if the interests of Russia and the United States differ greatly, and many AMERICAN allies have a deep distrust of Moscow’s intentions. However, on a number of points, there is a degree of agreement.

Here is a look at some of the items of the Russia-U.S. agenda:

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RUSSIAN HACKING

The AMERICAN intelligence services, Russia accused of interference in the U.S. elections through hacking, to help Trump win, claims Russia has rejected. Trump last week admitted that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of Democratic e-mails, but stressed that it had no influence on the outcome of the vote. He suggested that the US was hacked by China and other countries.

U.S. and EU officials have also Russia accused of hacking into other Western institutions and expressed their concerns that Russia may try to influence the elections of this year in Germany, France and the Netherlands. The hacking issue is not likely to weigh in than Trump and could overshadow any attempt by his administration to improve ties with Moscow.

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THE UKRAINIAN CRISIS AND ANTI-RUSSIA SANCTIONS

During the AMERICAN presidential campaign, Trump refused to condemn the Russian annexation of Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and even hinted that he would consider the recognition of the Russian territory. Such a step, however, this would lead to a massive opposition in the US Congress and rattle US allies, so it seems very unlikely.

Led by Washington, the European Union and other AMERICAN allies have slapped Russia with several waves of sanctions in response to the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for a pro-Russia insurgency in the east of Ukraine. The sanctions, together with the low prices of oil, have driven the Russian economy into a recession, and Putin will see to getting them removed as one of his top priorities.

Obama and the EU are bound rollback of the sanctions to the progress in 2015, a peace agreement for Ukraine, which has floundered. It would be hard for the Trump administration to push for the sanctions’ removal while the fighting in the east of Ukraine continue.

Some US legislators have proposed further increase of the anti-Russian sanctions.

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SYRIA

Trump has said that Russia and the US should combine efforts to fight the Islamic State group in Syria.

Moscow long has pushed for such cooperation, in the hope that it would help to see the page on the Ukrainian crisis and improving ties with Washington. Obama ruled out such an alliance, however, for the sake of the Kremlin, the focus on the strengthening of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Opportunities for U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria are higher when Assad’s enemies are weakened and demoralised after the retreat from Aleppo, the country’s largest city. With Assad’s positions are stronger than ever since the start of the conflict, almost six years ago, Russia may focus more on the combat, and eagerly embrace cooperation with the united states as an Asset.

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NUCLEAR ARMS CONTROL

The New START nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by Russia and the United States in 2010, limited their nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads for each country. The treaty is set to expire in 2021, but they can agree to extend if they appreciate the level of transparency of the deal.

The treaty does not prevent both sides of the modernisation of their arsenals, which Russia is already doing, and Trump has promised to do.

There are frictions, however, with regard to other arms control pact, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned the entire class of nuclear missiles. Washington and Moscow traded accusations of violation of the treaty.

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THE NATO BUILD-UP IN EUROPE

The implementation of the US and other allied troops and weapons in the Baltic states and Poland in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine has angered Moscow, which has been described as evidence of Washington’s hostile intentions.

Also in russia is sharply critical of NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense plan, including a plant in Romania and a future establishment in Poland. Putin has described the program as an attempt to erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent, dismissing US claims that the shield is intended to fend off a potential missile threat from Iran.

These problems are probably still a top irritant in U.S.-Russia ties.

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