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3 Ways President Trump is Crossing Russia (in Ways Candidate Trump Did Not)

On at least three fronts, the Trump-led government is making moves bound to upset the Kremlin; what it means for U.S.-Russia relations.

Trump Budget Reaction

Headlines across America have focused on potential ties between members of the Trump administration and the Russian government in recent months. So consuming is this storyline that Hill Republicans are getting sucked into the vortex while Democrats ceaselessly hunt for a smoking gun.

With all of that going on, it’s easy to miss stories with far broader implications for international politics, and ones in which Republicans and Democrats are working together to combat Russian aggression.

Here are three ways Donald Trump’s State Department – and members of Congress – are crossing Russia in big ways.

PEACEFUL PROTESTERS

Over the weekend, the U.S. State Department stuck up for anti-corruption, anti-government protesters in Russia, issuing a statement that “strongly” condemned arrests made by the government.

“Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” State spokesman Mark Toner said. President Trump has been silent, but his State Department is leading on the issue.

MONTENEGRO TO NATO

The Senate is poised to approve, by overwhelming margins, Montenegro’s bid to join NATO.

Why this matters, according to The Washington Post:

Authorities in Monte­negro claim pro-Russian factions attempted to stage a coup last October during parliamentary elections. Russia has denied any involvement.

The Kremlin also is strongly opposed to any more expansion of NATO. Three Balkan countries that were once under Russia’s Cold War sphere of influence are in the process of joining.

In a letter to Senate leaders this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Montenegro’s membership in NATO is “strongly in the interests” of the U.S.

SYRIA

Russia and the U.S. continue to dance around each other in Syria, with Russia going so far as to accuse the U.S.-backed coalition of “complicat[ing] post-war reconstruction” with its alleged targets of “critical infrastructure.”

The coalition hit back with this tweet, via a Defense Department account:

Beyond the partisan furor in Washington over Trump-Russia relations last year, it appears U.S.-Russia relations are beginning to fray this year.