It puts Trump in a position where his administration would not be able to strike any “grand bargains” with Moscow, because Congress would have to sign off. That includes deals like trading Russia’s cooperation in Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea for acquiescing to Russian interests in Ukraine.
For Moscow, Trump is now a weak president, unable to deliver on agreements with Putin. Still, the hope for Trump reasserting himself on Russia policy is not completely dead yet. That’s why Russia won’t retaliate for sanctions with anything more serious than diplomatic expulsions.
Further down the road, without a meaningful turnaround in U.S.-Russian relations, Moscow may decide to exploit the geopolitical opportunities that Trump’s foreign policy keeps creating, to bring more pressure to bear on the U.S. where it hurts most.
It would exploit the rift between Washington and the EU over Russia sanctions. With China, Russia is likely to obstruct U.S. policies to isolate North Korea. Moscow may attempt to undermine U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan by providing covert support for the Taliban. It would exploit Washington’s attempts to undo the Iran deal.
The tit-for-tat we are seeing now is right out of the Cold War playbook. Unfortunately, both for Russia and the United States, reigniting the Cold War would also require hoping for a different result.