This week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, will be meeting in Alaska to discuss topics of mutual concern in the Arctic. After a tumultuous start to relations with the new administration, there could be room for a legitimate aligning of interests. Moscow’s interest in exploring the region could be part of a larger thawing in relations between the two countries.
As it stands, relations between the White House and Kremlin are the worst they have been in years. The vaunted promise of a reset in relations was shattered with the chemical attack in Syria last month, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and other members of his administration reversed public positions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. stance on the regime in Damascus is now rather unclear. However, the new announcement from Secretary Tillerson that, “[o]ur values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated — those are our values. Those are not our policies” seems to be an olive branch to the Russians, extended in advance of the meeting. Perhaps the administration will try at least to cool relations with Moscow.