So, the long-awaited “Kremlin List” happened to be a purely formal action. What was made public is just a meaningless compilation of names partly taken from a phonebook with some of them cribbed from the Forbes’ Billionaires list – a kind of Who Is Who reference publication. The administration had to release the document as required by law, so it adopted the “get what you want and leave me alone” approach. At least, that’s what the unclassified part of the report looks like. Technically correct, the list is just a mockery in its essence. Nothing in the report indicates that the US is in possession of information about the individuals’ involvement in any wrongdoings. The paper says it is not a sanctions list though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it would result in restrictive measures. He did not specify the date.
It’s not the “Kremlin List” that really matters. On Jan.29, one day before the document was made public, Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee voted to release a classified memorandum, revealing the misconduct by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation. The paper expresses grave concern over the way the investigation, launched by the Obama administration, was conducted. The lawmakers took the decision ignoring the position of the Justice Department, which had warned not take this “extraordinary reckless” step. It’s highly probable that if an investigation into the abuses is launched, the trail will lead to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
It’s not Donald Trump but rather his opponents who will be at center of the scandal with media raising ballyhoo (and they will do it as practice shows). Everything will turn around to put the Democratic backers of Hillary Clinton on the defensive with the president’s hands untied giving him much more freedom to implement his Russia policy. He won’t keep one eye on Congress when it comes to dealing with Russia. Trump will become the defender of democracy threatened by Clinton’s camp. The “Kremlin’s List” will be on the backburner.
Russia knows well all the ins and outs of US politics. It is reserved and patient but it cannot forever abstain from striking back. Both governments realize this fact and act accordingly. They don’t sever the contacts, so that wouldn’t have to start from scratch when the times change.
On the contrary, they do what is possible under the circumstances. It’s enough to look at the news that doesn’t hit headlines but tells about the events of great significance. For instance, Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russian foreign intelligence service, has recently visited the United States to discuss terrorism. The Russian foreign intelligence chief is under sanctions but the visit was important enough to make the US executive turn a blind eye on this fact. Naryshkin was granted entry to the country. It’s hard to imagine such a high-ranking official coming alone.
So, the information exchange with Russia is too important to be affected by ups and downs in the relationship. It’s enough to remember how the interaction between the intelligence services of both countries prevented a terrorist act in Saint Petersburg last December. In his recent interview with Russian Echo Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station, US Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman said the time is propitious for a Russia-US bilateral summit. He also emphasized the importance of military-to-military communications. Until now, the leaders have met only on the sidelines of top-level international events. A summit could change a lot of things, addressing many problems beyond the scope of bilateral relationship.
2018 is an election year in the United States. The Democrats’ chances will diminish greatly when the secret memo is released. With economy going strong, the chances for Republicans to strengthen their position in both houses look good enough. So do the opportunities for the president to keep his pre-election promise to improve the relationship with Russia.