Speaking about Russia and US-Russian Relations

To prepare for Extemp topics related to Russia, there are a number of topics you need to be familiar with.
(1) Will the recent decision by the US to close three additional consulates and annexes spell the further decline of relations?  Russia has deemed it an “unfortunate escalation” and it appears they will retaliate.  The “tit for tat” continues.
Read the “diplomatic parity” justification from the State Department.
Would it be better for the US and Russia to embrace detente? 
Check out this recent (August 17) report on US-Russian relations
(2) Can Russia help the US resolve the Korean crisis?  China’s Russia problem on North Korea
(3) Ukraine.   In 2014, Russian engaged in a “low level” invasion of the Ukraine, which it claimed was done to protect the interests of ethnic Russians.  This military activity has continued, and many believe it could constitute a wider threat to Eastern Europe.
Recently, Russia cut off Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
The crisis there could cripple US-Russian relations 
(a) Will more lethal aid help the Ukraine? Mattis says he’s thinking of sending weapons.  No 
Prepare to speak on either side of the debate.
(b) Should the Ukraine join NATO? Its President says it will.
Prepare to speak on either side of the debate.
(4) Should the sanctions on Russia be lifted? In August, the US enacted a new round of sanctions on Russia, to the chagrin of many of its allies.

Boris Toucas wrote on August 7th,
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (H.R. 3364) seems destined to become a new flashpoint in the transatlantic relationship. President Donald Trump grudgingly signed it into law in the face of overwhelming congressional support but complained that the bill contravenes his exclusive constitutional authority to determine the time, scope, and objectives of international negotiations. Though the law deals with Iran, North Korea, and Russia, the latter section has attracted the most international attention. Indeed, its implications could go far beyond punishing Russia to set the tone for the transatlantic relationship in general.
The law is a catch-all measure that pursues three main objectives. Its stated aim first is to respond to Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections, which explains why an entire section is dedicated to preventing and punishing cyber attacks. A second goal is to reduce the president’s room for manoeuver with Russia amid suspicions Trump wants to seek a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin even as a special counsel investigates connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. By codifying the already existing executive order sanctions, the Congress is effectively granting itself the right to veto the removal of sanctions on a case-by-case basis. Finally, the law gives these sanctions extraterritorial effects. Its potential scope therefore extends beyond the United States, potentially affecting any foreign actor in business with U.S. entities—including European companies—in certain key sectors.
The process has sparked outrage across Europe. Unsurprisingly, Germany and Austria, later followed by France, have denounced the bill as “illicit under international law.” The notion of extraterritorial reach has been consistently fought by the Europeans since the 1980s. European countries have challenged such laws before international bodies, even forbidding their national companies to comply with them in some cases. The president of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, claimed that “America first cannot mean Europe last” and even threatened the United States with “retaliation”—though this option was later postponed to await detail about how the United States will implement the law. Though the law in its final version has been softened and recommends that new measures be discussed in close coordination with allies, it is unlikely to curb criticisms as the outcome of such coordination is not prescribed.

Moscow referred to the sanctions as a trade war. Germany’s Merkel says they should be after there is a peace plan. Germany fears the sanctions will trigger a new US-Russian Cold War (an “ice age“)

Alexaner Baunrove argues the sanctions have undermined US relations with Europe.
This latest round of U.S. sanctions was not coordinated with European allies. Many in the EU—and not just traditionally Russian-leaning countries such as Greece, Hungary, and Italy but leading figures such as the president of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker—expressed concern that the sanctions could hurt the gas trade from Russia on which much of Europe depends. The overall result may have an ironic twist. It may be that U.S. politicians were so focused on punishing Trump and Russia that they forgot about their friends in Europe. And by doing so, they may have created exactly the divisions between Europe and the United States that Russia is said to be seeking to sow.

Backgrounder: Russia Sanctions 
Punishing Russia with sanctions will not stop the Kremlin.
Sanctions on Russia: Impacts on Economic Interests of the US 
(5) Did Russia meddle in the US election? Director of National Intelligence Report — Russia’s activities and intentions in recent US elections. Did Putin do this for revenge and to restore the Russian empire? How should the US respond to any meddling?  Does it mean we can’t trust Russia?
Putin’s interference in our election clearly backfired.
(6) Has Russia violated the INF treaty? How should the US and its western allies respond? With diplomacy and strengthening our military capabilities?
(7) Is Russia a threat to the West? Should we fear its latest military dress rehearsal?  Is America losing its military edge to Russia? 
Russia is catching up to America in this one key area and it does plan on building an aircraft carrier.  The dangers of Russia’s new ICBM.  Defense Intelligence Agency’s report on Russia’s military power.
More — Understanding Russia’s hybrid warfare.  Little Green Men: A Primer on Russia’s unconventional warfare. The US is unprepared to deal with Russia in Europe, Congress needs to act on the Russian nuclear threat.
(7) Are Russia-China ties a threat?  China-Russia military relations 
There is some important background you should understand —
(1) The history of collapsing US-Russian relations since 2014
Further Reading
Carnegie Endowment’s New Cold War