Mr. Trump’s decision to cut numbers shows “complete disconnection between the NATO trend, where allies are pushed to a robust posture against Russia, and the reality of U.S. priorities,” said one senior European diplomat at NATO.
The planned cut to U.S. forces in Europe is a boon for the Kremlin, which has long sought to drive a wedge between the Western allies and reduce U.S. influence in Europe.
While Russia has largely given up the idea of improving ties with the U.S., it has looked to various countries where it can gain toeholds in the West not only to boost its own influence but reduce that of the Americans, analysts said.
“The only direction Russia can move in boosting relations with the West is toward Europe,” said Andrey Kortunov, the director of the Russian International Affairs Council, a Moscow-based think tank with ties to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
With Russia and the EU on opposite sides of issues such as Ukraine and Syria, Moscow has limited room for improving diplomatic ties in Europe. Instead, it has succeeded in pushing through economic projects on the continent, such as the Nord Stream 2 project that could double Russia’s supply of natural gas to Germany. The Trump administration’s attempts to stop the project have created a bone of contention between Berlin and Washington.
Alexei Leonkov, a Moscow-based military expert, said tensions between the U.S. and Germany over the withdrawal of troops and other factors could help give Moscow further leverage in seeing the project through.