Spotlight: Icy U.S.-Russia relations set to get even colder after closure of Russian consulate
2017-09-02 10:18:00

A combination of file photos show Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) at a news conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Feb. 28, 2017 andU.S. President DonaldTrumpat the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on June 1, 2017.(Xinhua)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1-- Thursday's closure of the Russian Consulate in the U.S. city of San Francisco is the latest event in the ongoing sour relationship between the United States and Russia.

On Thursday the U.S. ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco, as well as diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington, in retaliation for Russia's order that the United States slash staff at its Moscow embassy.

These instances are the latest in a string of jabs between the two countries, whose relationship is at a low perhaps not seen since the Cold War, according to analysts. While ties between the two countries have certainly not worsened to the level they were before the fall of the Berlin Wall, they are not expected to improve anytime soon.

Poor relations are the result of ongoing disagreements involving the war in Syria, the conflict in Ukraine, and U.S. accusations that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, a charge Russia strongly denies.

While Russia's response to Thursday's closure was measured, the situation could escalate going forward, if each side continues to shift the blame toward the other, analysts said.

"The consulate closing will chill U.S.-Russia relations. Each side will continue to retaliate and blame the other for starting the problem," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

"The situation could escalate and become problematic for both countries. If we are lucky, cooler heads will prevail and keep the escalations to a minimum," West said.

The United States slapped a new round of sanctions on Russia last month, worsening a relationship that had already been tense. The new U.S. sanctions, passed with bipartisan, veto-proof majorities in Congress, underscore that lawmakers believe the U.S. cannot work with Russia, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's hopes several months ago that the two could partner on a number of issues, analysts said.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua that relations, currently poor, are set to get even worse, adding that he believes that U.S. policy on Russia is heading only in one direction, and that is an increasing toughening of the U.S. position.

It had been President Trump's hope that Russia would work with the United States on defeating terror group Islamic State, which had overrun vast swathes in the Middle East, although the radicals are now on the defensive.

The New York billionaire had previously wanted to work with the Kremlin in a bid to end the conflict in Syria, and had vowed during his campaign to improve ties with Moscow.

The worsening of ties could lead to even more sanctions in the future, as well as closer U.S. relations with other nations in the region, analysts said, which could manifest itself in sending defensive weaponry to the Ukraine, some analysts said.

Some analysts also believe worsening U.S.-Russia ties will lead to an increased U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe, such as the Baltic States and Poland, as well as further deployment of U.S. strategic bombers to Europe, especially to the UK, as a warning to Moscow.

"With such provocative actions, the U.S. continues to burden the already difficult atmosphere of the bilateral dialogue, undermining opportunities for cooperation, including in the interests of solving pressing international problems," Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday. Editor:Nicky