Russia-US ties zigzag wildly during Putin’s rule since 2000

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Moscow: Donald Trump on Friday will be the fourth American leader that Russian President Vladimir Putin has face since taking helm in 2000.

Under Putin’s watch, the US-Russian ties have zigzagged wildly between periods of tensions and relative warmth.

When Putin was first elected in March 2000, US-Russia ties were bitterly strained over the US-led NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Those tensions contrasted with friendly relations between Moscow and Washington under President Bill Clinton and Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, throughout the 1990s.

Putin quickly sought to establish warm ties with Clinton and other Western leaders. When Clinton visited Moscow in June 2000, the Russian president even suggested that Russia could join NATO _ a proposal that has failed to get traction. In July 2000, Putin tried unsuccessfully to persuade North Korea to abandon its missile program when he paid a surprise visit to Pyongyang en route to the G-8 summit in Japan.

Soon after President George W Bush’s inauguration, Putin met him in Slovenia in June 2001. The meeting helped establish friendly ties, with Bush famously saying that he came to trust Putin after looking him in the eye and getting a sense of his soul.

Putin became the first foreign leader to call Bush after Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks, and he welcomed the US deployment to formerly Soviet Central Asia for the war in Afghanistan. In another goodwill gesture, Putin shut down Soviet-era military facilities in Cuba and Vietnam.

Bush hosted Putin for a barbecue at his Texas ranch in November 2001, saying “You’re the kind of guy to have in a foxhole.”

The US missile defense plans cast a shadow over the otherwise warm ties, but Russia and NATO signed a 2002 pact that set up a joint council to tackle common threats such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

TENSIONS RISING
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Russia criticized, marked a turning point and ties began to sour.

Moscow viewed the 2004 Orange protests in Ukraine, which targeted fraud in a presidential vote, as an attempt by Washington to expand its clout and hurt Russia’s interests in the former Soviet nation. The Kremlin developed a similar viewpoint about uprisings that toppled unpopular leaders in other ex-Soviet nations _ Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

In a 2007 speech in Munich, Putin accused the US of trampling on the international law to enforce its diktat on others. The tensions kept boiling and a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 led to a freeze in Russia-US relations.

A RESET AND A NEW COLD WAR
President Barack Obama moved to “reset” ties with Russia soon after his election, visiting Moscow in July 2009.

Even though Putin continued to call the shots as prime minister, Obama focused on building warm ties with Putin’s ally, President Dmitry Medvedev. When Medvedev stepped down in 2012 to let his mentor reclaim the top job, Putin accused the US State Department of fomenting mass protests in Moscow against his return to the presidency.

The US-Russian relations steadily degraded as the Kremlin moved to stifle dissent, tighten restrictions on foreign NGOs and ban US adoptions of Russian children. They plunged to a new low in 2013 when Russia granted political asylum to NSA contractor Edward Snowden despite the US requests for his extradition.

When Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president was driven from office in February 2014 after months of protests, Putin blamed the US for engineering his ouster. Russia quickly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and offered support to pro-Russia separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

The US and the European Union responded with an array of sanctions, which along with low oil prices drove Russia’s economy into a recession.

TRUMP AND RUSSIA
The Kremlin has rejoiced over Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election after his campaign promises to improve ties with Russia. But the Congressional and FBI investigations into Trump campaign officials’ links with Russia thwarted Putin’s hopes for a quick meeting, making the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the earliest possible moment for the first contact with the new US president.

Putin has denied meddling in the US vote and criticized the Democrats for failing to acknowledge the mistakes he says that helped Trump win. Putin has praised Trump and voiced readiness to cooperate with the US on stabilizing Syria, fighting terrorism and tackling other global issues.

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