Russia Reacts to White House Soap Opera With a Shrug
"The dog barks, and the caravan moves on." "Nobody pays any attention any more, or expects any improvements."
Russia is learning to live with Donald Trump. That is to say it's learning to ignore him, and the brouhaha around him. Reuters reports:
The soap opera of White House personnel changes, intrigue and investigations has alarmed a part of the American public and shocked some foreign governments, yet Russian officials have found their own way of responding.
With a shrug.
Russia's elite celebrated when Donald Trump was elected president because it expected a thaw in relations, but expectations since then have plummeted so far that in Moscow, signs of dysfunction in the administration barely register.
"Nobody pays any attention any more, or expects any improvements," said a person close to the Russian government, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss foreign policy issues.
Employing a folk saying to describe how the turbulence inside the White House is viewed in Moscow's official circles, the source said: "The dog barks, and the caravan moves on."
US relations are important to the Russian government, but it's no longer hoping for anything from Trump:
Still, Russian officials and people close to them - who all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject - say that half a year into the Trump presidency, they now see events in Washington as more of an exotic sideshow than an existential threat.
"It seems to me that no one in Moscow is particularly interested in the personnel changes in Washington any more," said a former senior official who is familiar with Kremlin thinking.
The reason, he said, is that whoever Trump brings into his White House is unlikely to change the course of U.S.-Russian relations.
The reason is that Kremlin officials do not believe Trump runs the show:
Those relations, in the view of Moscow, are being dictated by factors beyond Trump's control.
Russian officials believe the Washington establishment, exploiting the allegations of collusion between Moscow and Trump associates, has stymied the U.S. president from enacting his agenda of improving ties with Russia any time soon.
One senior Russian official described Trump's position on Russia as both sad and, in a way, funny.
Speaking before the U.S. and Russian leaders met at a summit last month, the official said Trump had spoken in positive terms about Putin, but even though Trump leads the world's most powerful nation, his hands were tied by the people around him.
A person close to an influential Russian ministry who often attends government meetings said he barely paid any attention to the fact U.S.-Russian ties were not warming.
"I never had any illusions," said the person. "Their president is a jester, a puppet. Other people determine the policies."
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