While recent anti-corruption protests in Russia are indeed justified, the United States should not officially support them. Doing so is an ill-advised move during a time when the relationship between the two countries is already incredibly strained.
On March 26, 8,000 people took to the streets of Moscow in order to protest corruption in the government, and hundreds of those protesters were detained, reports CNN. Protests were also held in other cities throughout the country.
"The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday," said acting U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner in a statement, according to CNN.
During a White House press briefing on March 30, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer echoed Toner's support for the protesters.
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"[W]e obviously encourage, as we did last Sunday, the peaceful protest -- the government of Russia to allow the peaceful protest of individuals throughout their country. We obviously support the people to have a voice in every government throughout the world," he said, according to the White House website.
According to CNN, protests continued to occur only a few days later on April 2, with more than 30 people being arrested in Moscow.
While Toner and Spicer's statements regarding the protests are clearly well-meaning, they are not the smartest moves from a diplomatic standpoint, and similar statements should not be made regarding the protests that occurred on April 2.
Russia-United States relations have become extremely tense over the past few months. Supporting the protesters -- whom the Russian government clearly feels threatened by given that they have been arrested -- has the potential to further damage the relationship between the two countries.
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An example of how bad the relationship between Russia and the Untied States has become can be found in a "Good Morning America" interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dimitry Peskov, that occurred on March 31.
According to AOL News, Peskov was asked by George Stephanopoulos if he believed that the current political climate between the two countries is as bad as the Cold War.
"New Cold War?" he replied, "Well, maybe even worse. Maybe even worse taking into account actions of the present presidential administration in Washington."
Among the "actions" that Peskov referred to is the investigation into Russia's influence in the 2016 presidential election, which some say was significant enough to affect the outcome. These claims are currently under investigation by both the House and the Senate.
The fact that an official so close to Putin himself has such a negative view of United States-Russia relations should be a red flag for our country's leaders and should be reason for them to pick and choose their battles when it comes to Russia. It is not clear what Peskov means by "worse," or if his assertion implies that actual, physical violence between the two countries is a possibility in the future.
Given Peskov's statements, it is unlikely that support of the protesters will be well-received by the Russian government.
Some things, such as the question of whether Russia influenced the presidential election, are indeed worth some conflict with Russia. But they are worth this conflict because they have a direct impact on U.S. citizens. The Russian protesters, however, are not American citizens, and their success or failure does not affect this country directly.
If the relationship between the United States and Russia were more stable, the United States might be able to support the protests. But the simple fact is that it isn't. Therefore, U.S. officials at this time cannot, in good conscience, support the efforts of the protesters.