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What A Difference A Year Makes: Russian Lawmakers Pan Trump's Security Doctrine, Kremlin Sees Silver Lining


U.S. President Donald Trump (left) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an econmomic summit in Vietnam last month.

MOSCOW -- Just over a year ago, some Russian lawmakers raised a glass of bubbly to celebrate the victory of Donald Trump and his "America first" pledges in the U.S. presidential election.

But as President Trump announced his new national-security doctrine on December 18, there were accusations from parliament in Moscow that it promotes U.S. global hegemony.

The security-strategy document unveiled by Trump takes a sober line on Russia and China, declaring them threatening "revisionist" powers with which Washington will seek a "great partnership" while maintaining a guiding principle of "America First."

The document was decried by a raft of Russian lawmakers who said the United States is foolishly pursuing an outdated Pax Americana strategy in a fundamentally changed multipolar world, although the Kremlin -- while objecting to its designation as a threat -- identified what it described as "modest positive moments."

"Of course, we cannot agree with the view of our country as a threat to U.S. national security," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in comments carried by TASS.

"But that said, there are some modest positive moments, including in particular the readiness to cooperate in fields that correlate to American interests. This absolutely corresponds with our approach, as expressed by the president. Because Moscow also seeks partnership with the U.S. when it is beneficial to us and when our American colleagues are prepared."

Shared Intelligence

Peskov said the "exemplary" model of such cooperation was a purported tip-off by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) that was said to have helped foil a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. In a phone call, Putin on December 17 reportedly thanked Trump for the intelligence sharing that led to several arrests.

Here, Peskov echoed Trump, who also hailed the shared intelligence, which he said may have saved thousands of lives, as he announced the national-security document.

Russian lawmakers, however, were more uniform in their dismay over the document.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the State Duma international affairs committee, told TASS that "the new national-security strategy is oriented exclusively toward the revival of American hegemony and...building a unipolar world." Slutsky claimed the security document marks "effectively a continuation of the demonizing of Russia in the world pushed by the [former President Barack] Obama administration."

Russia's relations with the West have been at a post-Cold War low since 2014, when pro-Western unrest in Kyiv toppled a Moscow-backed Ukrainian president before Russia annexed Ukraine's strategically important Crimean Peninsula and backed armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The election of Donald Trump in November 2016 was widely touted in Russia as an opportunity for closer relations with Washington after eight years of Obama, who was vilified on Russian state TV.

'Do It Yourselves!'

Trump has repeatedly praised Putin and spoken in favor of closer relations with Moscow, both before and since taking office. But U.S. intelligence-agency assertions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and multiple investigations into possible contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians -- combined with bipartisan efforts in Congress to maintain a comparatively hard line on Russia -- have reduced Trump's political options with respect to Russia.

Hopes in Russia of a rapid improvement in relations with Washington have faded, perhaps most markedly in August, when Trump reluctantly signed new sanctions against Russia "for the sake of national unity." The Kremlin has occasionally publicly praised Trump, while state television has cast him as hamstrung by a fundamentally anti-Russian establishment.

Aleksei Pushkov, a lawmaker in the Federation Council, wrote on Twitter: "The U.S. thinks Russia and China are the main threats. Well then there is no need to ask for help on North Korea and Afghanistan. Proudly carry the U.S. flag! Do it yourselves!"

In a follow-up tweet, Pushkov continued: "Announcing Russia and China the main opponents promises nothing good for the U.S. global role. It's a strong tandem -- the US won't cope with it."

Writing on Facebook, Konstantin Kosachev, a senior member of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, said he believes Trump's national security doctrine indicates the United States wants to deploy more troops to Eastern Europe in violation, he said, of troop deployment regulations.

"The tone of the document leaves no doubt that the U.S. is not satisfied with the changes in the world over the past years and intends to wrap them back, having returned Pax Americana as the apparently fair world order," wrote Kosachev.

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