The undersecretary nominee argued that the reasonable line for the US should include publicly condemning Moscow's bad behavior while having private discussions with Russian officials at the same time.
“Overall, I think it’s important that we adopt a multifaceted approach to Russia. They are a very difficult country to deal with. Their behavior in many areas is unacceptable,” Hale said. “I think it’s important that we call out these transgressions when they occur publicly. I think it’s important that we have a frank dialogue privately to express in very direct terms what we find objectionable or we believe needs to be changed.”
The undersecretary nominee added that he supports targeted sanctions against Russia.
“Targeted sanctions I think will be highly effective in making sure that we continue to increase the costs for this kind of behavior,” Hale stated.
Since 2014, relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated amid the crisis in Ukraine. Washington has introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions after Crimea's reunification with Russia and the latter's alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict. Russia has refuted all the accusations and taken retaliatory economic restrictions.
US-Russia Cooperation in Syria
However, the nominee also outlined that Russia and the US should work together in order to stabilize Syria.
"I also believe that we should try to work with the Russians to see if we can help build a better Syria," Hale said. "But we should not be rushing with that assistance until it’s clear that there is a game plan that will stabilize that country, eliminate the presence of Iranian troops and put political future of that society into hands of its people."
Hale also noted that the current US military presence in Syria now is completely justified as they are "there to deal with the primary problem of the ISIS [Islamic State] threat, and that was justification for the deployment."
"I think once we accomplish that goal, we have not yet, we are getting closer appropriate to review our Syria policy including that aspect of it," he said.
On July 16, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first-ever summit meeting in Helsinki. Trump said they discussed the Syrian crisis at length and added that US-Russia cooperation there would save hundreds of thousands of lives. Trump also said that the positions of the United States and Russia on Syria are quite similar, and the two countries' approaches are getting closer.
Syria has been in a state of conflict since 2011 with a number of opposition groups and terrorist organizations supported by foreign countries fighting the Syrian Army to topple the government of President Bashar Assad. The United States and its allies have been engaged in a military operation against terrorists in Syria since 2014. However, the US operations in Syria have been conducted without authorization from the Syrian government or a mandate from the UN Security Council. Russia, together with Turkey and Iran, is a guarantor of the Syrian ceasefire and has been assisting Damascus by offering support to combat terrorists operating in the country as well as by providing humanitarian aid.