Donald Trump’s Victory Gives Russian-US Relations a Chance

Donald Trump’s unexpected victory has upended the US political system and its repercussions will be far-reaching. The White House and both houses of Congress are now in Republican hands, which means that Trump will be able to implement whatever agenda he pursues. In domestic politics, this may involve repealing key aspects of the Obama legacy. In foreign policy, he will likely prioritize improving relations with Russia, – Valdai Club experts beleive.

The election of Donald Trump will have major international consequences, according to Valdai Club experts. A possible change in the US foreign policy includes resetting relations with Russia and revising allied relations within NATO. Trump’s election may also strengthen the influence of populist movements in Western Europe.

Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics, University of Kent at Canterbury: “Trump’s victory will end the cold war because he has a new agenda. Clinton would have carried on the agenda that has resulted in Europe’s division and global confrontation over the past 25 years. Now international relations have entered a new stage, and Trump’s revolutionary idea of improving US-Russian relations will benefit the world. In this context, there are grounds for optimism.”

According to Reinhard Krumm, Head of the Vienna-based Regional Office of Security and Peace in Europe (ROSPE), Friedrich Ebert Foundation, nothing definite can be said about Trump’s foreign policy, because his election campaign focused on domestic politics. “We need to know who will work with him on the US foreign policy. There will be no radical changes, but I believe a second reset of relations with Russia is possible,” Krumm said.

This view is shared by Angela Stent, Director, Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, Georgetown University. “In foreign policy, he will likely prioritize improving relations with Russia. It is less clear whether he will follow up on his promise to re-examine the continued utility of the NATO alliance,” she said.

What Will Donald Trump’s Russia Policy Be? Angela Stent
Donald Trump was quite explicit about how he would deal with Russia during the presidential campaign. From the beginning, he praised President Putin as a strong and effective leader and criticized the Obama administration for allowing relations with Moscow to deteriorate to such a low level.

US relations with its NATO allies are of concern for European experts for obvious reasons. “Trump will take a closer look at the membership dues of the NATO countries, but the Alliance will stay, because it is a system that does not fully depend on who holds the post of US president,” Krumm said. “A NATO reform is possible under Trump, and the European allies may be told that they either contribute to NATO’s strengthening and maintenance, because the United States will not pay for everything, or the US will not carry on the wars for which the world has criticized it,” said Alexander Rahr, Research Director, German-Russian Forum.

Many Valdai experts view Trump’s victory in light of the recent trend for the rise of rightwing populist movements. One of the reasons for this is the economic crisis, which has slowed the growth of prosperity.

“In my opinion, many people in the West believed that each new generation should live better than the previous one, if its representatives have employment. It is an American, or more generally speaking, a Western dream. This dream has sustained a massive blow, which is at the core of the current protest sentiments,” Krumm said.

According to Rahr, “everyone knows that the Trump phenomenon is based on the sentiments of those who are against globalization, mainstream, red tape. There are very many questions that must be answered. If the Western elites do not change their attitudes, they will follow in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton. This is an interesting moment in history, and we will know what happens next very soon.”

Professor Krumm believes that Trump’s success in the United States can encourage rightwing populist leaders in Europe. “Trump’s victory will influence the positions of European populists at the parliamentary election in Austria this year and in France and Germany next year. Trump’s victory is a major boost for these parties’ electorates. It will benefit Norbert Hofer [from the Freedom Party] of Austria, [president of the National Front] Marine Le Pen in France, and [right-wing populist and Eurosceptic political party] Alternative for Germany. Trump has shown that a historical alternative is possible. However, it should be said that the Brexit decision, which was based on protest sentiments, has not produced unambiguous benefits for Britain. If Trump’s first steps in his new office fail, he may change his politics and rhetoric,” Krumm said.

Not all of Trump’s intentions are obvious, the Valdai experts said. “There are certain concerns, because Trump is an opportunist and does not respect expert opinions. While representing the general public’s dissatisfaction, he has no answers to questions about inequality, deindustrialization, and globalization,” Richard Sakwa said.

“It is important that Brexit and Trump’s victory reflect the deep shifts in public mentality and the global situation. The radical liberal trend of the past 25 years is receding. There are optimistic elements in the current developments, but there is also a deep concern,” the British political scientist said.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.