by Elizabeth Sponaugle

With all of the recent buzz in the media, it is difficult to understand what is going on between the U.S. and Russia. There are many questions about President Obama’s and President Donald Trump’s relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s influence in the recent election.

For the past couple of years, the United States and Russia have been combating ISIS in Syria and have had many differences in coordinating actions to resolve the conflict. This has created a lot of tension between the two countries. However, there has just been more strain added to the United States and Russia’s relationship because of Russia’s influence in the Presidential election. The Obama administration described Russia’s involvement as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and on December 29th sanctioned nine Russian officials and individuals for the apparent election interference. The Obama administration also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and two Russian compounds were closed. Russia quickly responded to President Obama’s actions by declaring that they will respond to any “hostile steps” taken by the US.

All of these actions took place just a few weeks before President Trump took office, leaving him with a major conflict to deal with. Thus far, Trump has a different relationship with Russia than Obama did. Trump has publicly expressed his doubt that Russia had any involvement in the election. He said that it is time for the US to “move on” from the hacking. He did meet with intelligence officials to be briefed on the matter.

“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.” wrote Trump in a series of tweets after the intelligence briefing, “We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both counties will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”

Others are questioning Trump’s business involvement in Russia. Trump supposedly has been pursuing some real estate deals in Russia with hopes of building a Trump Tower Moscow. While Trump denies his intention to create this business deal and his involvement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this does raise many questions about Russia’s influence on Trump and the possibility that they could become a part of the lives of the American people.

As early as 2007 Trump has shown praise for Putin saying, “he’s doing a great job” which continued into 2013 when in a tweet Trump wondered if he and Putin will be friends writing, “Will he become my new best friend?” During Trump’s campaigning period, in 2015, he said that he and Putin “get along very well” and they praised each other on the national stage. By early 2016 Trump began denying any relationship between the two world leaders but did say that US-Russia relations would be better under his Presidency.

“I don’t think he has any respect for Clinton. I think he respects me. I think it would be great to get along with him,” Trump said.

Since the intelligence briefing, Trump has not released a statement on his plan to proceed with the tension between the US and Russia. However, an Obama administration official did acknowledge that Trump could reverse the sanctions by executive order. It will be important to keep an eye on the relationship between the two countries in the beginning days of Trump’s Presidency.