Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says that relations with the United States cannot get much worse, but also suggests that prospects for improvement are hard to discern following the midterm elections in the United States.
Dmitry Peskov spoke on November 7, after results from the U.S. election showed that the Democratic Party has won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives but President Donald Trump's Republican Party has retained control over the Senate, RFE/RL reported.
"It would be hard to make [the relationship] much more difficult," Peskov told reporters when asked whether the results – which had been widely predicted ahead of the November 6 elections – could complicate Russia's ties with the United States. "Everything is pretty difficult as it is."
Substantial unity on sanctions against Russia over its interference in Ukraine and other actions is unlikely to decrease when the Democrats take control of the House in January. Representatives Eliot Engel and Adam Smith, both Kremlin critics, are likely to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Armed Services Committee, respectively.
Peskov did not predict that relations would deteriorate further, but said "one can suggest with a high degree of certainty that, of course, rosy prospects for the normalization of Russian-American relations are not visible on the horizon."
"But this does not mean that we are not seeking dialogue or don't want dialogue," Peskov said. "There are many issues that demand Russian-American communication – the issues of strategic stability and arms control," he said. "These issues will not fade away [on their own] without a conversation."
Trump has repeatedly expressed hope for improvement in ties with Russia, which have been badly strained by disputes over issues that also include Moscow's military interference in Ukraine and the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. But his term has been clouded by investigations into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow during and after the campaign.
Trump faced widespread criticism for comments at a July 16 summit in Helsinki in which he suggested that he believed Putin's denials about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election that put him in office, contradicting conclusions by the U.S. intelligence community.
The Helsinki summit is the only full-scale meeting the two presidents have held since Trump took office in January 2017. Tentative plans for a substantive meeting on November 11, during ceremonies in Paris commemorating the end of World War I, have been abandoned.
One U.S. House lawmaker who has praised Putin and called for warmer ties with Russia, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, lost his seat to a Democrat in a close race after nearly 30 years in the lower house of Congress.