Why Russia’s happy to talk to the US

Why Russia’s happy to talk to the US

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Sochi, Russia. May 14, 2019. Courtesy: Kremlin Press Office
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Sochi, Russia. May 14, 2019. Courtesy: Kremlin Press Office

Duke's Bruce Jentleson says Russia's disruptive foreign policy is succeeding, with the US stymied in Venezuela and risking conflict with Iran.

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coastal city of Sochi this week, an encounter Pompeo said aimed to keep U.S.-Russia relations “on the high ground.”

The talks come a month ahead of a planned meeting between Putin and President Trump in Japan, and as the U.S. juggles overseas crises spanning Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“I’m all for direct engagement with the Russians.”

Bruce Jentleson is a professor of political science at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

“It’s probably true that Russia affects our interests in a wider range of geopolitical issues now than any other country.”

While China looms as an economic and geopolitical competitor, Jentleson says Russia is a “disrupter” more focused on “getting in the way of America asserting its global power.” Through that lens, things are looking good for Russia.

Jentleson says Russia’s support for Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro is simultaneously inexpensive and effective at thwarting U.S. attempts to topple the Maduro regime.

Similarly, support for Syrian President Assad helped him survive a bloody civil war and preserve a Russian port in the country. And as for Iran, Jentleson says Russia won’t stand in the way if the U.S. wants to increase tensions and risk its own military conflict.

“If you get really Machiavellian about it, if the Persian Gulf closes and oil prices go up, the Russian oil flowing through pipelines is going to get a higher price.”

“The old adage, ‘if your adversary or your competitor is making their own life more difficult, stay out of their way’ – Russia’s view is, frankly, if you Americans want to go do another Iraq 2003, you’re helping us.”

Yet Russia’s economy could still use a jolt. Jentleson thinks ending U.S. sanctions would be a big help, but it’s a request he thinks Putin wouldn’t even need to mention.

“On the sanctions, they know they have a president in the White House who’s doing everything he can to either get them lifted or to find ways to get around them.”

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