Russia–United States relations

U.S. President Donald Trump (right), U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meet in Osaka, Japan in June 2019.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia on March 10, 2011
Embassy of Russia in the United States.
Embassy of the United States in Russia.

Russia–United States relations refers to the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia, two of the world's most powerful nations. The United States and Russia maintain diplomatic and trade relations. The relationship was generally warm under the Russian President Boris Yeltsin (1991–99) until the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia[1][2] in the spring of 1999, and has since deteriorated significantly. In 2014, relations greatly deteriorated further due to the crisis in Ukraine, Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, differences regarding Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and from the end of 2016 over Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and the 2020 elections. Mutual sanctions imposed in 2014 remain in place.

Country comparison

Common name Russia United States
Official name Russian Federation, or Russia[3] United States of America
Coat of arms Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation.svg Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
Flag Russia United States
Area 17,124,442 km2 (6,612,073 sq mi)
(including the Crimean Peninsula)
9,833,520 km2 (3,796,742 sq mi)[4]
Population 146,512,911 336,139,233
Population density 8.4/km2 (21.8/sq mi) 32.8/km2 (85/sq mi)
Capital Moscow Washington, D.C.
Largest metropolitan area Moscow (~12.6 million) New York City (~8.4 million)
Government Federal semi-presidential republic Federal presidential republic
First leader Rurik (prince)
Boris Yeltsin (president)
George Washington
Current leader Vladimir Putin Joe Biden
Established 862 (Ancient Rus')
12 December 1991 (Russian Federation)
12 December 1993 (current constitution)
4 July 1776 (independence declared)
3 September 1783 (independence recognized)
21 June 1788 (current constitution)
Official languages Russian None at the federal level (English de facto)
Currency Russian ruble United States dollar
List of countries by GDP (nominal) $1.637 trillion[5] $21.439 trillion[6]
External debt (nominal) $539.6 billion (31 December 2017 est.)[7] $20 trillion (March 2019)[8]
GDP (PPP) $4.349 trillion[5] $21.439 trillion[6]
GDP (nominal) per capita $11,162[5] $65,111[6]
GDP (PPP) per capita $29,267[5] $65,111[6]
Human Development Index 0.824 (very high) 0.920 (very high)
Expatriates 30,000 Americans living in Russia[citation needed] ~3,163,084 Russian Americans
Foreign exchange reserves $558,900 (17 January 2020)[9] $128,883 (25 October 2019)[10]
Military expenditures $61.4 billion $649 billion
Army size Russian Army (2020)[11]
  • 12,950 Tanks
  • 27,038 Armored Vehicles
  • 6,083 Self-Propelled Artillery
  • 4,465 Towed Artillery
  • 3,860 Rocket Projectors
US Army (2020)[12]
  • 6,289 Tanks
  • 39,253 Armored Vehicles
  • 1,465 Self-Propelled Artillery
  • 2,740 Towed Artillery
  • 1,366 Rocket Projectors
Navy size Russian Navy (2020)[11]

Total Naval Strength: 603 ships

  • 1 Aircraft Carriers
  • 16 Destroyers
  • 10 Frigates
  • 79 Corvettes
  • 62 Submarines
  • 41 Patrol
  • 48 Mine Warfare
US Navy (2020)[12]

Total Naval Strength: 481 ships

  • 11 Aircraft Carriers
  • 91 Destroyers
  • 0 Frigates
  • 19 Corvettes
  • 66 Submarines
  • 13 Patrol
  • 11 Mine Warfare
Air Force size Russian Air Force (2020)[11]

Total Aircraft Strength: 4,163

  • 873 Fighters
  • 742 Dedicated Attack
  • 424 Transports
  • 497 Trainers
  • 127 Special-Mission
  • 1,522 Helicopters
  • 531 Attack Helicopters
US Air Force (2020)[12]

Total Aircraft Strength: 13,264

  • 2,085 Fighters
  • 715 Dedicated Attack
  • 945 Transports
  • 2,643 Trainers
  • 742 Special-Mission
  • 5,768 Helicopters
  • 967 Attack Helicopters
Nuclear warheads 6,500 (2019)[13] 6,185 (2019)[13]
Economic alliance BRICS, Eurasian Economic Union Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Military alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Allies:

Leaders of Russia and the United States from 1992

George H. W. BushBill ClintonGeorge W. BushBarack ObamaDonald TrumpBoris YeltsinVladimir PutinDmitry MedvedevVladimir PutinUnited StatesRussia

Background

Russian Empire–United States relations
Map indicating locations of Russian Empire and United States

Russia

United States

United States and the Russian Empire

Fort Ross, Russian settlement in California, 1841, by Ilya Gavrilovich Voznesensky.

Official contacts between the Russian Empire and the new United States of America began in 1776. Russia, while formally neutral during the American Revolution (1765–1783), favored the U.S.

Fully-fledged diplomatic ties were established in 1809.[15] In 1863, during the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Russian Navy's Atlantic and Pacific fleets wintered in the American ports of New York and San Francisco, respectively. Some historians credit this visit as a major factor in deterring France and the UK from entering the war on the Confederate side.[16] For many years a myth persisted that during the American Civil War, Russia supported the Union against the Confederacy. In fact Russia was strictly neutral. The myth was invented by the American State Department to mislead the British about American potential strength.[17] Russia operated a small fur-trade operations in Alaska, coupled with missionaries to the natives. By 1861 the project lost money, threatened to antagonize the Americans, and could not be defended from Britain. In the Alaska Purchase of 1867 it was sold to the United States for $7.2 million,[18][19] thereby creating a common sea border between the two countries that still exists today. In the late 19th century, American public opinion was shocked at the accurate reports of anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire (mostly within the Pale of Settlement). It was a factor as late in American opposition to going to war against Germany with Russia as an ally in 1917, until the czar Nicholas II was overthrown in February 1917 and the objection ended.[20] The Treaty of Portsmouth (1905), brokered by American President Theodore Roosevelt ended the Russo-Japanese War.[21]

From 1820 until 1917, about 3.3 million immigrants arrived in the U.S. from the Russian Empire. Most were Jews or Poles; only 100,000 were ethnic Russians.[22][23]

United States and the Soviet Union

Soviet–American relations
Map indicating locations of Soviet Union and United States

Soviet Union

United States
U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin in Tehran, Iran in November 1943.
U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev in New York, 1988.

The U.S. participated in the allied military intervention against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War since August 1918, operating in the Russian Far East. Following the Bolsheviks′ victory in the Civil War and the establishment of the Soviet Union (USSR) at the end of 1922, the U.S., while developing trade and economic ties, was the last major world power that continued to refuse to formally recognize the Soviet government.[24] The United States and the USSR established diplomatic relations in November 1933.[25]

The United States and the Soviet Union were among the four major Allies against the Axis powers during World War II. Following the onset of the Cold War in 1947, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed by the U.S., Canada, and several Western European nations, in Washington, D.C. on 4 April 1949, a treaty that established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) designed to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.[26]

The first bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Soviet Russia/USSR was a consular convention signed in Moscow in June 1964.[27][28] In 1975, the Helsinki Final Act was signed by a multitude of countries, including the USSR and the US, and, while not having a binding legal power of a treaty, it effectively signified the U.S.-led West′s recognition of the Soviet Union′s dominance in Eastern Europe and acceptance of the Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that had been effected in 1940. The Act came to play a role in subsequently ending the Cold War.[29]

In the 1970s—1980s the USSR and the U.S. signed a series of arms control treaties such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972), two Strategic Arms Limitation treaties (SALT), the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (1987); in July 1991 the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was concluded.

In the late 1980s, Eastern Europe nations took advantage of the relaxation of Soviet control under Mikhail Gorbachev and began to break away from communist rule. The relationship greatly improved in the final years of the USSR.

On 3 December 1989, Gorbachev and the U.S. president George H. W. Bush declared the Cold War over at the Malta Summit.[30]

History

From dissolution of the Soviet Union through Yeltsin’s terms (1991–99)

On 25 December 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose association of the former USSR's constituent republics (except the Baltic states), was formed. The USSR's Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic became an independent state that inherited the USSR's UN Security Council permanent membership and declared itself the successor state to the USSR. Relations between Russia and the U.S. remained generally warm under Russia's president Boris Yeltsin and the U.S. George H. W. Bush′s and then Bill Clinton's administrations in the 1990s. In 1993, the sides signed the START II arms control treaty that was designed to ban the use of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); the treaty was eventually ratified by both countries, yet it was never implemented and was formally abandoned in 2002, following the US′s withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the White House, October 1995.

At the end of the 1990s, relations started to fray as Moscow grew suspicious about Washington′s intentions in the light of the first phase of the NATO eastward expansion.[31] Russia stridently opposed the U.S.-led NATO military operation against Serbia and Montenegro over Kosovo that began in late March 1999.[1][32][33] In December 1999, while on a visit to China, president Boris Yeltsin verbally assailed U.S. president Bill Clinton for criticizing Russia's tactics in Chechnya (at the start of the Second Chechen War) emphatically reminding that Russia remained a nuclear superpower and adding: ″Things will be as we have agreed with Jiang Zemin. We will be saying how to live, not [Bill Clinton] alone″.[31]

From Putin’s first term through end of George W. Bush’s second term (2000–09)

During the first presidencies of Vladimir Putin, who assumed the top office, first as acting president, on the last day of 1999, and United States President George W. Bush, the United States and Russia began to have serious disagreements. Under Putin, Russia became more assertive in international affairs; under Bush, the U.S. took an increasingly unilateral course in its foreign policy in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The Russian leadership blamed U.S. officials for encouraging anti-Russian revolts during the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine a year later that was seen by the Putin administration as intrusions into Russia's geographic sphere of interest.[34]

Russia strongly opposed the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Vladimir Putin with George W. Bush and other Western leaders at 32nd G8 summit in Moscow, July 2006.

Nevertheless, Putin and Bush were said to have established good personal relations.[35][36]

In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to move forward with plans for a missile defense system. Putin called the decision a mistake. Russia strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, though without exercising its veto in the United Nations Security Council. Russia has regarded the expansion of NATO into the old Eastern Bloc, and U.S. efforts to gain access to Central Asian oil and natural gas as a potentially hostile encroachment on Russia's sphere of influence.

In March 2007, the U.S. announced plans to build an anti-ballistic missile defense installation in Poland along with a radar station in the Czech Republic. Both nations were former Warsaw Pact members. U.S. officials said that the system was intended to protect the United States and Europe from possible nuclear missile attacks by Iran or North Korea. Russia, however, viewed the new system as a potential threat and, in response, tested a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24, which it claimed could defeat any defense system. Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. that these new tensions could turn Europe into a "powder keg". On June 3, 2007, Putin warned that if the United States built the missile defense system, Russia would consider targeting missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic.[37]

In October 2007, Vladimir Putin visited Iran to discuss Russia's aid to Iran's nuclear power program and "insisted that the use of force was unacceptable."[38] On October 17, Bush stated "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," understood as a message to Putin.[39] A week later Putin compared U.S. plans to put up a missile defense system near Russia's border as analogous to when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba, prompting the Cuban Missile Crisis.[40]

In February 2008, Vladimir Putin said Russia might have to retarget some of its missiles towards the missile defense system: "If it appears, we will be forced to respond appropriately – we will have to retarget part of our systems against those missiles." He also said that missiles might be redirected towards Ukraine if they went ahead with plans to build NATO bases within their territory, saying that "We will be compelled to aim our missiles at facilities that we consider a threat to our national security, and I am putting this plainly now so that the blame for this is not shifted later,"[41]

In July 2008, Russia announced that if a U.S. anti-missile shield was deployed near the Russian border, it would have to react militarily. The statement from the Russian foreign ministry said, "If an American strategic anti-missile shield starts to be deployed near our borders, we will be forced to react not in a diplomatic fashion but with military-technical means." Later, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said that "military-technical means" did not mean military action, but more likely a change in Russia's strategic posture, perhaps by redeploying its own missiles.[42]

On August 14, 2008, the U.S. and Poland agreed to have 10 two-stage missile interceptors – made by Orbital Sciences Corporation – placed in Poland, as part of a missile shield to defend Europe and the U.S. from a possible missile attack by Iran. In return, the U.S. agreed to move a battery of MIM-104 Patriot missiles to Poland. The missile battery was to be staffed – at least temporarily – by U.S. Military personnel. The U.S. also pledged to defend Poland, a NATO member, quicker than NATO would in the event of an attack. Additionally, the Czech Republic recently agreed to allow the placement of a radar-tracking station in their country, despite public opinion polls showing that the majority of Czechs were against the plans and only 18% supported it.[43] The radar-tracking station in the Czech Republic would also be part of the missile defense shield. After the agreement was announced, Russian officials said defences on Russia's borders would be increased and that they foresaw harm in bilateral relations with the United States.[44]

In November 2008, a day after Obama was elected president, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in his first annual address to the Federal Assembly of Russia announced plans to deploy Iskander short-range missiles to Kaliningrad, near the border with Poland, if the United States went ahead with its European Ballistic Missile Defense System.[45][46]

In August 2008, United States-Russia bilateral relations became further strained, when Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

From Obama’s first term to election of Trump (2009–16)

U.S. president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev after signing the New START treaty

Despite U.S.–Russia relations becoming strained during the Bush administration, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (president from May 2008 until May 2012, with Vladimir Putin as head of government) and U.S. president Barack Obama struck a warm tone at the 2009 G20 summit in London and released a joint statement that promised a "fresh start" in Russia–United States relations. The statement also called on Iran to abandon its nuclear program and to permit foreign inspectors into the country.[47]

In March 2009, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov symbolically pressed a "reset" button. The gag fell short as the Russian translation on the button was misspelt by the State Department and actually meant "overload" instead of "reset". After making a few jokes, they decided to press the button anyway.[48]

In early July 2009, Obama visited Moscow where he had meetings with president Medvedev and prime minister Putin. Speaking at the New Economic School Obama told a large gathering, "America wants a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia. This belief is rooted in our respect for the Russian people, and a shared history between our nations that goes beyond competition."[49] Days after president Obama's visit to Moscow, U.S. vice president Joe Biden, noting that the U.S. was "vastly underestimat[ing] the hand that [it] h[e]ld", told a U.S. newspaper that Russia, with its population base shrinking and the economy "withering", would have to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues.[50] Biden's words, published shortly after his visit to Ukraine and Georgia, were interpreted by George Friedman of Stratfor as "reaffirm[ing] the U.S. commitment to the principle that Russia does not have the right to a sphere of influence in these countries or anywhere in the former Soviet Union";[51] Friedman pointed up a fundamental error in the analysis that underlay such thinking and predicted, "We suspect the Russians will squeeze back hard before they move off the stage of history".[51]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Waldorf Astoria New York in September 2010

In March 2010, the United States and Russia reached an agreement to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The new nuclear arms reduction treaty (called New START) was signed by President Obama and President Medvedev on April 8, 2010. The agreement cut the number of long-range nuclear weapons held by each side to about 1,500, down from the current 1,700 to 2,200 set by the Moscow Treaty of 2002. The New START replaced the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired in December 2009.[52]

On a visit to Moscow in March 2011, U.S. vice president Joe Biden reiterated Washington's support for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization;[53] he also had a meeting with Russia's leading human rights and opposition leaders where he reportedly told the gathering at the U.S. ambassador's Spaso House residence that it would be better for Russia if Putin did not run for re-election in 2012.[54] Through 2020, this was the only time Biden and Putin had met. After an official group meeting Biden characterized in his memoir as "argumentative," he and Putin met privately, with Biden saying "Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes," (a reference to a 2001 meeting between Putin and President Bush, who later said "I looked the man in the eye...I was able to get a sense of his soul"). Biden continued, "I don’t think you have a soul." Putin replied, "We understand each other." Biden was elected president in 2020.[55]

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi meeting in Italy in June 2011

At the start of the mass protests that began in Russia after the legislative election in early December 2011, prime minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States of interference and inciting unrest, specifically saying that secretary of state Hillary Clinton had sent "a signal" to "some actors in our country"; his comments were seen as indication of a breakdown in the Obama administration's effort to "reset" the relationship.[56]

By 2012, it was clear that a genuine reset never happened and relations remained sour. Factors in the West included traditional mistrust and fear, an increasing drift away from democracy by Russia, and a demand in Eastern Europe for closer political, economic and military integration with the West. From Russia factors included a move away from democracy by Putin, expectations of regaining superpower status and the tactic of manipulating trade policies and encouraging divisions within NATO.[57][58]

Shortly after the election of Putin back to presidency in March 2012, the White House spokesman Jay Carney said United States–Russian cooperation was based on mutual interests.[59]

In mid-September 2013, the United States and Russia made a deal whereby Syria's chemical weapons would be placed under international control and eventually destroyed; president Obama welcomed the agreement[60] that was shortly after enshrined in the UNSC Resolution 2118. The Obama administration was criticised for having used the chemical weapons deal as an ineffectual substitute for military action that Obama had promised in the event of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.[61] In George Robertson's view, as well as many others', the failure of Obama to follow through on his 2013 "red line" and take promised military action badly hurt his credibility and that of the United States with Putin and other world leaders.[62][63]

Obama acknowledged Russia's role in securing the deal to limit Iran's nuclear program that was reached in July 2015, and personally thanked Putin for Russia's role in the relevant negotiations.[64]

On a personal level, the relationship between Obama and Putin went on to be characterised by an observer in 2015 the following way: "There can rarely have been two world leaders so obviously physically uncomfortable in one another's presence."[65]

In May 2012, Russian general Nikolay Yegorovich Makarov said that there was a possibility of a preemptive strike on missile defense sites in Eastern Europe, to apply pressure to the United States regarding Russia's demands.[66] In July 2012, two Tu-95 Bears were intercepted by NORAD fighters in the air defense zone off the U.S. coast of Alaska, where they may have been practicing the targeting of Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base.[67] Later in August 2012, it was revealed that an Akula-class submarine had conducted a patrol within the Gulf of Mexico without being detected, raising alarms of the U.S. Navy's anti-submarine warfare capabilities.[68][69]

On December 14, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, which "[imposed] U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia". On December 28, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill, widely seen as retaliatory, that banned any United States citizen from adopting children from Russia.[70]

On February 12, 2013, hours before the 2013 State of the Union Address by U.S. president Obama, two Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers, reportedly equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, circled the U.S. territory of Guam.[71][72] Air Force F-15 jets based on Andersen Air Force Base were scrambled to intercept the aircraft.[71][72] The Russian aircraft reportedly "were intercepted and left the area in a northbound direction."[71][72]

At the end of 2013, Russia announced that a rearmament of the Kozelsk, Novosibirsk, Tagil Rocket divisions with advanced RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles was going ahead.[73]

In July 2014, the U.S. government formally accused Russia of having violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing a prohibited medium-range ground-launched cruise missile (presumably R-500,[74] a modification of Iskander)[75] and threatened to retaliate accordingly.[75][76] Concern in the U.S. was also caused by the test-firing in 2014 of the Russian RS-26 Rubezh Intercontinental Ballistic Missile capable of evading the existing anti-ballistic missile defenses.[77][78]

In early June 2015, the U.S. State Department reported that Russia had failed to correct the violation of the I.N.F. Treaty; the U.S. government was said to have made no discernible headway in making Russia so much as acknowledge the compliance problem.[79]

Snowden in Moscow in October 2013.

Edward Snowden, a contractor for the United States government, copied and released hundreds of thousands of pages of secret U.S. government documents. He fled to Hong Kong, and then to Russia where in July 2013 he was granted political asylum. He was wanted on a criminal warrant by U.S. prosecutors for theft of government property and espionage.[80]

The granting of asylum further aggravated relations between the two countries and led to the cancellation of a meeting between Obama and Putin that was scheduled for early September 2013 in Moscow.[81] Snowden remains in Russia as of November 2020.

Following the collapse of the Viktor Yanukovych government in Ukraine in February 2014, Russia annexed Crimea on the basis of a controversial referendum held on March 16, 2014. The U.S. had submitted a UN Security Council resolution declaring the referendum illegal; it was vetoed by Russia on March 15 with China abstaining and the other 13 Security Council members voting for the resolution.[82] In 2016, in a court in Moscow, former top Ukrainian officials of the Yanukovich administration testified that the collapse of the government was, in their opinion, a coup d'état organized and sponsored by the U.S. government.[83][84] Russian newspaper Kommersant alleges George Friedman (chairman of Stratfor) had agreed this was the "most blatant coup in history', which George Friedman says was taken out of context.[85][86]

Anti-American slogans during the Victory Day celebration, pro-Russia sympathizers and separatists in Donetsk, May 9, 2014.

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry in early March 2014 answering the press questions about Russia's moves in Crimea said, "This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It's really 19th century behavior in the 21st century, and there is no way, to start with, that if Russia persists in this, that the G8 countries are going to assemble in Sochi. That's a starter."[63] On March 24, 2014, the U.S. and its allies in the G8 political forum suspended Russia's membership thereof.[87] The decision was dismissed by Russia as inconsequential.[88][89]

At the end of March 2014, U.S. president Obama ruled out any Western military intervention in Ukraine[88] and admitted that Russia's annexation of Crimea would be hard to reverse; however, he dismissed Russia as a "regional power" that did not pose a major security threat to the U.S.[90] In January 2016, when asked for his opinion of Obama's statement, Putin said, "I think that speculations about other countries, an attempt to speak disrespectfully about other countries is an attempt to prove one's exceptionalism by contrast. In my view, that is a misguided position."[91][92] In November 2016, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said this of the statement of Obama: "We have a lot to learn about the depths of Russia, we are very ignorant about it at the moment. I would like to have discussions on a level footing with Russia. Russia is not, as President Obama said, 'a regional power'. This was a big error in assessment."[93]

As unrest spread into eastern Ukraine in the spring of 2014, relations between the U.S. and Russia further worsened. The U.S. government imposed punitive sanctions for Russia's activity in Ukraine. After one bout of sanctions announced by President Obama in July 2014 targeting Russia's major energy, financial and defence companies, Russia said the sanctions would seriously harm the bilateral ties relegating them to the 1980s Cold War era.[94]

Putin meets with Secretary of State John Kerry, Victoria Nuland and John F. Tefft to discuss Ukraine and other issues in December 2015.

From March 2014 to 2016, six rounds of sanctions were imposed by the US, as well as by the EU, and some other countries allied to the U.S. The first three rounds targeted individuals close to Putin by freezing their assets and denying leave to enter. Russia responded by banning import of certain food products as well as by banning entry for certain government officials from the countries that imposed sanctions against Russia.

The end of 2014 saw the passage by the US of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014,[95][96] aimed at depriving certain Russian state firms of Western financing and technology while also providing $350 million in arms and military equipment to Ukraine, and the imposition by the US president's executive order of yet another round of sanctions.[97]

Due to the situation concerning Ukraine, relations between Russia and the U.S. that denounced Russia's actions were in 2014 said to be at their worst since the end of the Cold War.[98]

As vice president, Joe Biden urged the Ukrainian government to reduce the nation's reliance on imports of Russian natural gas, and to eliminate pro-Russia middlemen such as Dmitry Firtash from the country's natural gas industry.[99]

Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin to discuss Syria, September 29, 2015.

Shortly after the start of the Syrian Civil War in the spring of 2011, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria's government and urged president Bashar al-Assad to resign; meanwhile, Russia, a long-standing ally of Syria, continued and increased its support for the Syrian government against rebels backed up by the U.S. and its regional allies.

On September 30, 2015, Russia began the air campaign in Syria on the side of the Syrian government headed by president Bashar al-Assad of Syria. According to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's statement made in mid-October 2015, Russia had invited the U.S. to join the Baghdad-based information center set up by Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia to coordinate their military efforts, but received what he called an "unconstructive" response; Putin's proposal that the U.S. receive a high-level Russian delegation and that a U.S. delegation arrive in Moscow to discuss co-operation in Syria was likewise declined by the U.S.[100][101]

In early October 2015, U.S. president Obama called the way Russia was conducting its military campaign in Syria a "recipe for disaster";[102] top U.S. military officials ruled out military cooperation with Russia in Syria.[103][104] Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and other senior U.S. officials said Russia's campaign was primarily aimed at propping up Assad, whom U.S. president Barack Obama had repeatedly called upon to leave power.[105]

Three weeks into the Russian campaign in Syria, on October 20, 2015, Russian president Vladimir Putin met Bashar Assad in Moscow to discuss their joint military campaign and a future political settlement in Syria, according to the Kremlin report of the event.[106][107] The meeting provoked a sharp condemnation from the White House.[108]

While one of the original aims of the Russian leadership may have been normalisation of the relationship with the U.S. and the West at large, the resultant situation in Syria was said in October 2015 to be a proxy war between Russia and the U.S.[109][110][111][112][113] The two rounds of the Syria peace talks held in Vienna in October and November 2015, with Iran participating for the first time, highlighted yet again the deep disagreement over the Syrian settlement between the U.S. and Russia, primarily on the issue of Bashar Assad's political future.[114] The talks in Vienna were followed by a bilateral meeting of Obama and Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Turkey, during which a certain consensus between the two leaders on Syria was reported to have been reached.[115]

John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov are paying tribute at the French Embassy in Moscow after terror attack in Nice, July 15, 2016.

Bilateral negotiations over Syria were unilaterally suspended by the U.S on October 3, 2016, which was presented as the U.S. government's reaction to a re-newed offensive on Aleppo by Syrian and Russian troops.[116] On the same day Putin signed a decree[117] that suspended the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement with the U.S. (the relevant law was signed on 31 October 2016[118]), citing the failure by the U.S. to comply with the provisions thereof as well as the U.S.' unfriendly actions that posed a "threat to strategic stability."[119][120] In mid-October 2016, Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin, referring to the international situation during the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, said that tensions with the U.S. are "probably the worst since 1973".[121] After two rounds of fruitless talks on Syria in Lausanne and London, the foreign ministers of the U.S. and the UK said that additional sanctions against both Russia and Syria were imminent unless Russia and the "Assad regime" stopped their air campaign in Aleppo.[122][123]

The U.S. presidential election campaign of 2016 saw the U.S. security officials accuse the Russian government of being behind massive cyber-hackings and leaks that aimed at influencing the election and discrediting the U.S. political system.[124] The allegations were dismissed by Putin who said the idea that Russia was favouring Donald Trump was a myth created by the Hillary Clinton campaign.[124] The background of tense relationship between Putin and Hillary Clinton was highlighted by U.S. press during the election campaign.[125] Trump had been widely seen as a pro-Russia candidate, with the FBI investigating alleged connections between Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort as well as Carter Page and pro-Russian interests.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and William Shepherd after Shepherd was awarded the Russian Medal "For Merit in Space Exploration", December 2, 2016.

Between the 2016 election and Trump's inauguration (November 8, 2016–January 20, 2017)

Anti-Trump poster in San Francisco, presumably associating Trump with Russia or its former status as a part of the Soviet Union, April 15, 2017.

In mid-November 2016, shortly after the election of Trump as the U.S. president, the Kremlin accused president Barack Obama's administration of trying to damage the U.S.' relationship with Russia to a degree that would render normalization thereof impossible for Trump's incoming administration.[126]

In his address to the Russian parliament delivered on December 1, 2016, Russian president Putin said this of U.S.—Russia relations: "We are prepared to cooperate with the new American administration. It's important to normalize and begin to develop bilateral relations on an equal and mutually beneficial basis. Mutual efforts by Russia and the United States in solving global and regional problems are in the interest of the entire world."[127]

In early December 2016, the White House said that President Obama had ordered the intelligence agencies to review evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign; Eric Schultz, the deputy White House press secretary, denied the review to be led by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper was meant to be "an effort to challenge the outcome of the election".[128] Simultaneously, the U.S. press published reports, with reference to senior administration officials, that U.S. intelligence agencies, specifically the CIA,[129] had concluded with "high confidence" that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton's chances and promote Donald Trump.[130] President-elect Donald Trump rejected the CIA assessment that Russia was behind the hackers' efforts to sway the campaign in his favour as "ridiculous".[131][132]

In mid-December 2016, Hillary Clinton suggested that Putin had a personal grudge against her due to her criticism of the 2011 Russian legislative election and his opinion that she was responsible for fomenting the anti-Putin protests in Russia that began in December 2011.[133] She partially attributed her loss in the 2016 election to Russian meddling organized by Putin.[134][135]

Also in mid-December, President Obama publicly pledged to retaliate for Russian cyberattacks during the U.S. presidential election in order to "send a clear message to Russia" as both a punishment and a deterrent,;[136] however, the press reported that his actionable options were limited, with many of those having been rejected as either ineffective or too risky; The New York Times, citing a catalogue of U.S.-engineered coups in foreign countries, opined, "There is not much new in tampering with elections, except for the technical sophistication of the tools. For all the outrage voiced by Democrats and Republicans in the past week about the Russian action — with the notable exception of Mr. Trump, who has dismissed the intelligence findings as politically motivated — it is worth remembering that trying to manipulate elections is a well-honed American art form."[137]

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 signed into law by president Obama on 23 December 2016, was criticised by the Russian foreign ministry as yet another attempt to "create problems for the incoming Trump administration and complicate its relations on the international stage, as well as to force it to adopt an anti-Russia policy."[138]

At the end of 2016, U.S. president-elect Donald Trump praised Putin for not expelling U.S. diplomats in response to Washington's expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats as well as other punitive measures taken by the Obama administration in retaliation for what U.S. officials had characterized as interference in the U.S. presidential election.[139][140]

On January 6, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), in an assessment of “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”, asserted that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Trump over Clinton, and that Putin personally ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Clinton's chances and "undermine public faith in the US democratic process".[141]:7

From Trump's inauguration to present (January 20, 2017–present)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, April 12, 2017.

A week after the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017, the U.S. president Donald Trump had a 50-minute telephone conversation with Russian president Vladimir Putin that was hailed by both governments as a step towards improvement of relations between the U.S. and Russia; the presidents agreed to arrange a face-to-face meeting for a later date.[142][143]

In early March 2017, the U.S. military for the first time publicly accused Russia of having