The bombing in the St. Petersburg metro that killed eleven people is a tragedy, and appropriate messages of condolences have been flowing in from Western capitals. President Donald Trump declared it a “terrible thing” and called Russian president Vladimir Putin to offer sympathy and assistance. Similarly, UN ambassador Nikki Haley declared that the United States and Russia stood together against these extremist groups.
Yet this attack—as much as it seems to validate Trump’s assertion that Russia, the United States and the nations of Europe face a shared threat from groups like the Islamic State, their offshoots and their imitators—is not going to lead to any policy shifts, nor does it portend any sort of improvement in U.S.-Russia relations. There continues to be too much distrust between the political and security establishments of both countries. Prior to the bombing in St. Petersburg, comments offered by Haley some twenty-four hours before the attack best characterize the current position of the United States: while not precluding the possibility of working with Russia to go after the Islamic State, “there’s no love or anything going on with Russia right now” and the United States will continue to hold Russia “accountable” for its actions in Syria, its relationship with Iran and how it conducts its domestic politics. Moreover, Haley’s statements that international peace and security are threatened by countries that violate human rights are raising Moscow’s ire.