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Top Tillerson Aide Smacks Down Russia’s Biggest Wish

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a briefing for reporters at the end of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a briefing for reporters at the end of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC1304B599E0

The Trump administration will not allow the Russian government to use its military presence in Ukraine or Syria as a bargaining chip in negotiations on issues of mutual concern, State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday.

“There is no grand bargain,” Hook declared, adding “there is no quid pro quo and we will stand by that.” The director’s declaration flies in the face of long-held Russian wishes that its influence and Ukraine or Syria could be used to extract concessions from the U.S. or the West. These concessions would include sanctions relief, NATO expansion, and other issues relating to their core interests in Eastern Europe.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine in 2014 and continues to support a military separatist insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. The country’s incursion into Ukraine has prompted aggressive international sanction from the U.S. and the European Union. Russia is also actively supporting the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in the ongoing civil war of that country, and has long sought to use its leverage there to entice the U.S. to the negotiating table.

“For the Kremlin, Ukraine remains the number one concern. In the short term, Vladimir Putin’s air offensive in Syria will help Bashar al-Assad retain power. But in the long term, it seems Russia’s presence there is a bargaining chip,” Moscow based journalist Alec Luhn explained to Politico Magazine in late 2015.

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Saagar Enjeti
the authorSaagar Enjeti
National Security/Foreign Policy Reporter

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