Trump and Russia: ‘Quid Pro Quo’ or Quid Pro Talk?

April 19, 2019
RM Staff

Many of President Donald Trump’s critics have accused him of diluting Russia sanctions and/or appeasing his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Others, though not necessarily Trump supporters, have argued that this view is more smoke than fire. We did some research to test the claim, taking as our touchstone a recent New York Times op-ed by the newspaper’s former executive editor Max Frankel. The full list of evidence for and against Frankel’s claim can be read here.

To repeat our conclusion, overall we found: (1) that Trump’s administration lifted one set of sanctions introduced under his predecessor and wielded another less forcefully than intended by lawmakers, but also sanctioned dozens of new people and organizations in Russia, including some close to Putin; and (2) that—despite words and actions by Trump that may have boosted Russia’s global-stage cred—his administration has taken many more steps detrimental to Moscow’s actual national interests than beneficial to them. As various authors have pointed out, this does not necessarily reflect Trump’s own intentions toward Russia as there is an important distinction to be made between the president and his administration. Simply put, one explanation could be that Trump faces too many checks and balances to pursue the more Russia-friendly policy he touted during his campaign and beyond, and, perhaps, he, like his Russian counterpart, did not realize how difficult that would be.