US President Donald Trump remains interested in increasing cooperation with Russia, despite domestic allegations, William Wohlforth, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, told valdaiclub.com. He also noted that it is possible to expect a policy shift in the next few months.
Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week raised many questions about future avenues of US-Russian cooperation and improvement of relations. According to Wohlforth, this was overshadowed by issues of US domestic politics, and it is difficult to have a rational conversation on the national level, although the mood among the expert community has begun to shift.
“In the expert community, we are seeing very credentialed realist serious commentators, analysts and even former government officials suggesting several avenues that we might pursue, particularly following up on the Russian suggestion regarding Syria,” Wohlforth said.
According to Wohlforth, steps toward improving relations will have to be very incremental and be of a transactional nature, as neither side is prepared to strike a major deal.
“The only way to move this relationship in a better direction is to make some demonstrable progress on some issue in a very incremental way and we see signals that both leaderships in Moscow and Washington are willing to give that a shot,” Wohlforth told valdaiclub.com.
“The smartest move is to deal with these discrete areas discretely, rather than to seek trade-offs across them as was originally suggested regarding Ukraine and Syria, that these somehow be linked. I think that in each of these particular issue areas, you might be able to find places to work together,” he added.
Discussing possible avenues for cooperation, Wohlforth identified Syria as the best option, both because the conflict cannot move toward a solution without US-Russia cooperation and because it will allow for an improvement of relations without making global trade-offs.
“If we speak about Syria, everybody understands that there’s absolutely no way that we can move that conflict towards a better place without US-Russia cooperation. Simply there is no other option,” Wohlforth said.