Recent reports of conversations between President #Donald Trump senior security adviser Mike Pence with Russia’s Ambassador to the #United States during the weeks leading up to the Inauguration have once again focussed the spotlight on Russia activities and not only in regards to the United States.

#Vladimir Putin has become a constant presence if international politics in an increasingly aggressive manner that few would have expected until relatively recently. His activities and manipulations are now become ever more part of news reports and show the world that it is once more involved in a Cold War.

Elections

Donald Trump’s election victory is the subject of allegations of Russian interference. The allegations included controlled leaks, and the use of trolls on the internet spreading false news and thus to manipulate perceptions of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.

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These and other unsavoury allegations are now under investigation by America’s intelligence community, but the allegations are not isolated.

In the light of their upcoming elections both Germany and France and announced that steps will be taken to combat the spreading of false news and to neutralize other forms of manipulation of the electorate. In addition, reports from the Guardian that now Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni had been hacked by Russian agents during his period as Foreign Minster have given proof that the Russian President is interested in destabilizing not only American politics, but also that of its allies.

The ongoing conflict

In 2014 the international community led by American President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia over its conflict with the Ukraine which led to the annexation of Crimea.

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These sanctions have been a bone of contention with between the superpowers since then and explain one reason for Russia’s covert activities.

The best known incident of this period was the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 over the Ukraine with the deaths of all 283 aboard which included 80 children. A subsequent international investigation blamed pro #russian forces for this incident, a claim denied by the Russian government which blames Ukrainian forces.

Since then supposedly “pro Russian” forces have continued their opposition to the Ukrainian government, even though many international experts openly state that these rebels are in fact undercover Russian troops following orders from the Kremlin.

Deadly politics

Reports from Russia that politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, a critic of #Vladimir Putin, had fallen into a coma following allegations of having previously been poisoned is only the latest of a long line of allegations of political assassination of Russian politicians, journalists and dissidents opposed to the Kremlin.

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While the allegations have been strenuously denied by Putin’s Office they were the basis of a question on Donald Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly who defined Vladimir Putin as a “killer” which led to Russian government demands for an apology from O’Reilly.

Euope and the United States

Donald Trump’s Presidency has begun under the shadow of the Russian Bear. Not only with the allegations of interference in his election victory, but also with the other doubts over Vladimir Putin’s activities in world politics, including his involvement in the conflicts in the Middle East. These activities must become a priority for the new Secretary of State Rex W Tillerson as he begins his tenure. The changes currently transforming the European Union and Great Britain mean that American foreign policy must allow for unexpected electoral developments.

Only cooperation between the United States and Europe can oppose Russia activities and this can only be done with a White House with a precise and clear policy regarding Russian activities. The only solution cannot come from vague intentions of future cooperation because Vladimir Putin is an opponent who acts and strikes before talking. This will be a hard challenge for Trump’s Presidency.