Trump, Putin could remake U.S.-Russian relationship

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Vladimir Putin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin on March 18, 2014.
Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP 2014

Donald Trump's relationship with Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin fell under intense scrutiny during the 2016 election. Now that he's President-elect Trump, questions about those connections have only intensified.

Will the Trump administration reach out to Russia to build a more cooperative relationship? Would that put America and its allies at risk? What about the election cycle cyberattacks that the CIA believes originated in Russia?

"If you were immersed in the Russian domestic media, especially watch Russian television, the Russian people believe they are practically at war with the United States," Leon Aron, director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told the documentary radio program "America Abroad."

That spread of animosity against the U.S. is important for building up Putin's popularity, which was at a record low at the end of 2013, he added. "So this foreign policy is dictated by Putin's domestic political calculus."

Publicly, at least, Putin may now be trying to change the game. He has expressed hope that Trump may be easier to work with than presidents past.

"When Donald Trump comes out and says, 'I'm going to be friends with Putin, he's a great guy,' Russians love that," said Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at The New School. "Trump fits into some sort of view of the possible American leader who is going to respect Russia, he is going to recognize the strengths of Russia; and they love that."

Some American politicians are less excited by the prospects of a Trump-Putin friendship.

"The Russians are not our friends," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference following an assessment by the CIA stating Russia had interfered in the November election to help Donald Trump, something the President-elect has called "ridiculous."

To hear the full program, click the audio player above.

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