Left Out of Trump’s Big Speech, Russia Wonders What It Means

  • Kremlin says it’s waiting for Trump to act on cooperation vow
  • Silence is best in ‘anti-Russian Congress,’ analyst says

After months as the focus of heated controversy over its alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election campaign, Russia is pondering what it means to be left out of Donald Trump’s first address to Congress.

“There wasn’t a word about Russia,” Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Wednesday on Facebook. “What’s behind that isn’t clear yet.”

Russia’s “heard different statements” from Trump about cooperation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “We are full of patience, waiting for those statements to be followed by some actions that will allow us to understand what we need to focus on in prospects for Russian-American relations.”

Trump didn’t mention Russia or President Vladimir Putin in Tuesday’s speech even as he declared that the U.S. is “willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align.” Following years of confrontation with the U.S. under Barack Obama, Russian officials saw hope for better ties as Trump heaped praise on Putin during the campaign and said he’d seek to work with him in fighting terrorism. They’re now growing frustrated at the lack of progress.

‘Anti-Russian’

The deepening political row in the U.S. over assertions from intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the election to help Trump win has also damped initial Russian euphoria over prospects for cooperation. Controversy over his contacts with Russia cost Michael Flynn his job as U.S. national security adviser last month.

“In the anti-Russian Congress, the absolutely best thing for Russia was to remain silent about it,” said Valery Solovei, a political scientist at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. Trump’s focused on domestic issues in the face of a “consensus” against Russia that’s too strong to overcome and “the best news is no news,” he said.

Trump’s speech to Congress “was distinguished by restraint, a measured tone and a lack of evil, stupid things about Russia that was normal for Obama,” Alexei Pushkov, a member of the defense and security committee in the upper house of parliament, said on Twitter.

The failure to mention Russia in the speech came hours after Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin urged Trump to make good on his pledge to mount a joint fight against Islamic State in Syria. “Enough talk about it,” Fomin said.

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