It is difficult to chart any major successes for the Trump administration’s Russia policy so far. Despite the rhetoric of the 2016 campaign, no “deals” have been struck to provide for U.S.-Russia cooperation in fighting terrorism, ending the Syrian civil war, coping with North Korea’s nuclear challenge or dealing with questions related to Iran. U.S.-Russia talks over finding ways to defuse the crisis in Ukraine—the proximate reason for the continuation of Western sanctions against Russia—have been inconclusive.
At the same time, the president has been very reluctant to embrace the more confrontational approach to Russia that many in the U.S. Congress and even in his own national security establishment have urged him to take. While Donald Trump reluctantly signed legislation providing for enhanced sanctions against Russia and has done nothing to interrupt plans begun during the Obama administration to strengthen NATO’s eastern frontier, he has left several items sitting in his “in box” in the Oval Office unaddressed, most notably the questions of implementing further measures against Russia, sanctioning third parties for their economic and military dealings with the Kremlin or of providing American weaponry to the Ukrainian government.