MOSCOW, April 19. /TASS/. No breakthrough should be expected in relations between Russia and the US anytime soon, Russian experts said at a Moscow roundtable on the prospects for Russian-US relations.
"Even before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit, it was clear that the visit would bring no breakthrough decisions," Director of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of Russia’s Academy of Science Valery Garbuzov said. "The parties once again clarified their positions that still remain unchanged."
According to the expert, "the decision to set up a working group to assess bilateral difficulties is the only result of the visit." "This year, we can only expect the two countries to discuss all the issues at the negotiating table," Garbuzov said. "But no breakthrough decisions on Syria, Ukraine and other issues are likely to be made," he noted adding that he doubted that these issues could be solved at all.
"Trump has been trapped by his statements on Russia and Putin that he made during the election campaign, now he is in a very difficult position," the Russian expert went on to say. "These statements did him more harm than good, so now he is trying to prove that he is no one’s puppet while he has been accused of practically being a Russian spy."
Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts Dmitry Yegorchenkov agreed that no early breakthroughs were possible in Russian-US relations. "Russia and the United States have not yet brought their strategic stances closed together," he said.
Head of the Regional Security Department of the Defense Studies Center at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Sergei Yermakov believes that the US missile strike on the Syrian Shayrat airbase was a demonstrative step taken to solve domestic problems. "This was a very cautious attack," he noted. "Tillerson’s visit proves that Russia and the US are not going to stir up confrontation. In fact, Moscow and Washington maintain a system of mutual constraint."
According to Garbuzov, "a lot of contradictions between Russia and the US are rooted in Syria." He said that "the main goal of the Obama administration was to remove Assad. We seemed to succeed in making them change their mind but now Donald Trump once again puts forward the Obama administration’s stance." The expert was hopeful that "the first meeting between Putin and Trump will help clarify many things." "We need to use every possible way to make the Trump administration understand our position," Garbuzov added.
When commenting on Washington’s proposal that Russia join the US-led coalition, Yegorchenkov said that Russia had been taking absolutely correct measures in Syria. "The only right thing to do in Syria is eliminate terrorists and their affiliated opposition groups." In his opinion, "Donald Trump is not yet ready to raise tensions in relation to Syria so the US will act through some groups they control, particularly via the Kurds."
Yermakov, in turn, said that "the situation on the battlefield will to a great extent define the efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis." He added that the US needed a victory to strengthen its negotiating position. "Trump needs a victory before he enters talks," he noted.
Besides, the expert said that "the strategic goals of Russia and the US are different in Syria." "The only coincidence is that both countries seek to defeat the Islamic State but their methods differ as we have a broader view of the situation while the US divides militants into good and bad." This is why, in his words, "the US has been focusing on the fight against the IS in Raqqa where additional forces are being deployed."