The new U.S. National Security Strategy, or NSS, unveiled by President Donald Trump on Dec. 18, seems to reject any possibility for rapprochement between Moscow and Washington. Given the positive statements made by Trump both as a candidate and then as chief executive about the possibility for finding common ground with Russia, the Kremlin was taken aback at the negative tone. Ostensibly, this document is meant to guide the formulation of U.S. foreign and defense policies by establishing the fundamental premises and setting priorities. Does the release of the strategy put a final nail in the coffin and end any chance of substantive improvements in the U.S.-Russia relationship for the near future?
Before we can answer that question, we must first understand the purpose of the NSS. Traditionally, the final text is a carefully negotiated compromise between different interests and perspectives and among the various agencies and departments that make up the national security apparatus. An important subtext is that different parts of the U.S. government seek to have their core missions and interests mentioned in the document so as to provide a critical hook for their budgetary requests, and to have language in the strategy that reflects their organizational interests. However, because the NSS is issued in the name of the president, the document is supposed to emerge as a result of a consensus between the president’s personal thinking and beliefs, those of his immediate team and the professional custodians of American foreign and defense policy.