After Trump’s meeting with top U.S. intelligence officers his position might not change because he now found himself in a rather sticky situation: on the one hand, once he recognizes that the Russians have helped him come to power, he will admit his illegitimacy; on the other - if he does not respond to obvious facts, he will forever be blamed in being a pro-Russian politician. So Mr Trump is facing quite a challenge - to find an effective balance between these two threats.
I believe Trump will not be able to act as he announced before being elected, including, given the very serious opposition in Congress and the Senate (even though there is a Republican majority there). Just recall those numerous statements of some influential Republicans in the Senate on sanctions against Russia and you will realize that Trump is now in a difficult situation regarding decision-making on Russia.
As for the intentions of U.S. senators to submit a bill providing for the introduction of comprehensive sanctions against Russia, it should be noted that U.S. senators, according to the American political traditions, don’t say anything simply to show off, especially when it comes to senators who have a major impact on Capitol Hill. I mean, Lindsey Graham, Adam Schiff, Ben Cardin, Robert Menendez, not to mention such a prominent figure as John McCain. And, importantly, it’s not only the Democrats but also the Republicans who choose a tough stance on Russia. Thus, the initiative of U.S. senators may be very serious warning against Trump’s pro-Russian movements.
We must explain to the new U.S. Administration, what Russia really is. That it's a threat to Donald Trump, himself
That’s why I would not panic that much prematurely, though, at the same time, given Mr Trump’s desire to find understanding with Russia, I wouldn’t be too calm either. We must explain to the new U.S. Administration, what Russia really is. That it’s, including the threat to Donald Trump, himself.
Given the complex internal political issues, I don’t think Trump will do any movements too sharp in one direction or another. It will all be about balancing. That’s in order to, firstly, understand the depth of the situation in which he only begins to "mold" himself and, secondly, not to become too vulnerable to criticism both by his own party and by the Democrats.
So I think that the U.S. sanctions against Russia for Moscow’s cyberattacks will not be extended. But they will not be relaxed too much, either (although that was exactly Trump’s idea during his election campaign). The situation, to some extent, will remain as it is at the moment, with very few chances to change in either direction. This will greatly depend on the triangle: the Capitol, the White House and the U.S. intelligence community (it's too powerful a force for any U.S. president to completely ignore).
So I think that the U.S. sanctions against Russia for Moscow’s cyberattacks will not be extended. But they will not be relaxed too much, either
What may be Russia's reaction to all this talk about sanctions? Putin simply continues to lie both to Russia and the international community. He thinks that through this lie he is able to change the world. But he is wrong. This kind of policy is absolutely hopeless.
When Trump will be briefed clearly, with the facts and strong arguments, what Russia really is and how it has been trying to destabilize not only the U.S. but the entire Western world, then even a man so distant from traditional Democratic values, as Donald Trump actually is, will have sufficient arguments in order to follow the line that has already been worked out both in the U.S. and Europe.
Volodymyr Ohryzko is a head of Research Center on Russia, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine