According to one of Trump’s senior advisers, improving relations with Russia is no longer a priority for the Trump administration. Sanctions will not be lifted and might even be increased. Antiwar.com has the story:
This is bad news for several reasons. First and foremost, Trump’s relatively friendly stance towards Russia was the most useful position he offered on the campaign trail. And he often presented it in a common sense way that had a chance to actually resonate with the American people. In his words, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with… Russia?”
Indeed, during the campaign, it seemed like the most likely problem with Trump’s foreign policy towards Russia would be that he’d take it to far the other direction. Instead of just cooling tensions and resuming a normal, sanction-free trading relationship, Trump seemed interested in having an outright alliance with Russia to help in the War on Terror. This would have been problematic, in large part because it probably would have been stepping up the demonstrably counterproductive War on Terror overall.
Now, it appears those concerns are no longer necessary.
As the scandals and investigations surrounding Russia have continued to dominate the news cycle, the Trump administration has decided to avoid friendly gestures with Russia, including those that happen to be good policy.
It also appears the Obama administration and/or the national security state’s strategy for combating Trump was an effective one. As The Daily Beast put it in December 2016 when reporting on the US response to the alleged Russian hacking, “the goal is to hem in” the Trump administration with respect to Russia.* In other words, their objective was to put up enough roadblocks to prevent Trump from moving in a peaceful direction.
The combination of new sanctions at the end of 2016 and a seemingly endless stream of controversial news stories involving Russia and Trump based on anonymous leaks–often hyped beyond all reason–have succeeded in making Russia a politically toxic issue. So at least for now, detente is dead.
*To be clear, I wouldn’t recommend this article beyond pulling out this quote. The remainder of it assumes, with total certainty, that Russia did everything it is accused and then debates the best way to escalate things from there.