New Delhi: Since China is deriving maximum advantage from the US-Russia faceoff, it is sensible for Washington and Moscow to settle their differences. It is not easy. To all the other discordances, one more has been added, which conceivably is the worst of them. Robert Mueller is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election whose victor was Donald Trump. The FBI director that Trump sacked because his own Russian investigations were beginning to hurt the president, James Comey, has asserted in launch interviews for his memoirs that he suspects the Russians have something on Trump to blackmail him. Till the issue is settled one way or another, there is no hope for stability in US-Russia relations. And if it is proved that Russia meddled, the United States will not rest till Vladimir Putin pays the price and Russia as a whole is tamed.

Which is a pity, really, because Russia is a great nation at the same time that it is a tragic one. Its greatest tragedy is that it has not evolved into a genuine democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The absence of liberal democracy has also prevented a true market economy from taking root. This has made the country, on one hand, susceptible to Putin-style authoritarianism. On the other, it has inhibited Russia’s economic growth. In the heydays of the Soviet Union, when revolutionary fervour was at a peak, the Russian economy was nearly half the size of the US one. Today, it is a tenth of it. Putin cannot duck from blame for the abysmal state of affairs.

The United States has also sinned in Russia. When the Soviet Union was falling apart and needed the gentle sustained support of the Western market for recovery, Americans rushed in to plunder. This, together with the disastrous terminal leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, frightened the Russians to support the nominee of the deep state, Putin, and he has seized total control of the country. Russia from the time of the Tsars has been an expansionist state. Being continually authoritarian in history, it is unable to manage interstate relations on the basis of diplomacy and peaceful coexistence. It always fears the enemy at the gates. The fear of NATO and European Union expansion eastward made it successively grab Crimea and, by proxy, eastern Ukraine. Driven by nationalism and the needs of the deep state, it was only a matter of time before Russia intervened overseas, and it found a perfect opportunity in the civil war of Syria. It is to be noted that Russia intervened in Syria after the United States and Western Europe left Iraq and Libya in leadership vacuums to be overrun by fanatics of the ISIS and others. It has not helped, however, that Russia’s client in Syria is attacking his own citizens with chemical weapons.

Despite the opposition of Establishment United States to Russia, there was a chance of reconciliation with a friendly American president leading the way. But allegations of Russian meddling in the presidential election, the most sacred constituent of American democracy, has made the general mass of Americans unforgiving of Putin’s Russia. If Donald Trump had been a more acceptable president, Americans would have been willing to move on after safeguards had been put in place for future elections. But Trump takes perverse delight in angering Americans, and he is squarely in the crosshairs of the Russian meddling investigations. If Trump and Putin leave office one after another in a miracle of fate, the United States and Russia could step back from the brink. It is forgotten that Trump has done well to scare China on the trade deficit and that he has succeeded beyond the wildest imagination on North Korea. China gains from US-Russia hostilities. If the two major powers realize China’s deviousness, they may yet be able to repair their relations.