Russia is 'Not Our Friend' Nikki Haley Explains At Republican Retreat

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley explained to Republicans at their annual policy retreat that Russia remains an adversary, more than a year on from intelligence agency findings that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election.

“Russia is not our friend,” Haley told GOP lawmakers during a dinner as they worked out their 2018 legislative agenda and drew up a game plan for the upcoming midterm elections at a resort in West Virginia Thursday.

“There may be some things we can work with them on, and we should do that where we can,” Haley said. But she added Russia “will not be our friend as long as their government has the values that it has, and as long as it conducts itself the way it does internationally.”

02_02_Haley U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley attends a signing ceremony hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., January 10, 2018. Carlos Barria/Reuters

Haley acknowledged the Kremlin worked to interfere in the election, but she said “there is no reason to think the Russian interference made any difference between who won and lost.”

“I have no idea what Russia expected from the American elections. But I have to tell you, they are not happy with what they ended up with,” Haley said. “That fact is this: In the last year, this administration has been tougher on Russia than any American administration since Ronald Reagan.”

The U.S. has pushed back against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, saying it will arm Kiev’s forces with anti-tank missiles late last year, Haley pointed out during her 20 minute speech. She also cited the Trump administration’s strike inside Syria against Russia’s ally President Bashar al-Assad.

The Trump administration also shut more diplomatic sites in the U.S. in 2017 after the Obama administration seized two diplomatic facilities in retaliation for election meddling.

Read more: Russia will meddle in 2018 midterm elections, says CIA chief Mike Pompeo

Yet the administration drew criticism early this week after it failed to deploy bipartisan sanctions that Congress passed last summer meant to discourage foreign businesses from doing deals with Russian defense and intelligence. Some have accused the Trump administration of taking a soft stance against Russia during its first year.

The move would give the Kremlin a “safe space,” wrote former U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller, on Twitter Tuesday. Instead of activating the sanctions on deadline, the Trump administration released a list of Russian oligarchs cribbed from Forbes magazine’s 200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017 .

Last summer President Donald Trump called the sanctions “seriously flawed” and his administration argued Monday the threat of sanctions was acting as a “deterrent.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress Tuesday they will see more sanctions “in the near future.”

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, called Moscow’s election interference a “hoax” and dismissed investigations of it by Congress and by special counsel Robert Mueller as a political “witch hunt.” Republican perceptions of Putin have been on the rise, according to polling.

At the beginning of his presidency, Trump called for a reset of U.S.-Russian relations. Yet few gains have been made as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed out last December.

Relations are not likely to improve quickly. Early this week CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC he as “every expectation” the Kremlin will attempt to interfere in America’s 2018 midterm elections and that the U.S. will push back.

The U.S., said Haley Thursday, will continue to take a hard stance against “until Russia starts to act like a responsible country.”