Valdai Paper #67: Trumpery and Knavery: Looking for the Virtuous


Donald J. Trump never served in an elected office before becoming president of the USA in November 2016. However, he brings to the presidential office long experience of working in business, and above all an original view of American domestic and foreign policy. As far as Russia is concerned, one of the few salutary features of his election was his stated aim of improving relations with Moscow, as part of the attempt to shift American policy from ‘leadership’ to ‘greatness’, from liberal globalism towards a more state-centred nationalism. This entails a more pragmatic and less-ideological foreign policy, with the potential to coordinate the work of the great powers to resolve global problems. However, in his early months this has been derailed by an extraordinary parade of Russia-focused accusations from his political opponents in the Democratic Party as well as his enemies in the Republican Party. Even as a presidential candidate, he was charged with having colluded with Russia; and then for dismissing charges of Russian interference in the election itself. Nevertheless, a distinctive Trump foreign policy is beginning to emerge, repudiating in part the old globalism (which in the Bush-Obama years represented the coming together of neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists). However, a coalition of knaves has formed to oppose his foreign policy shift. These knaves are no less prone to inventing ‘facts’, generating ‘fake news’, and pursuing neo-McCarthyite vendettas as the Trumpians themselves. All this represents a substantial degradation of American political culture. Very few defenders of old-fashioned civic virtue and the traditional values of truth and impartiality are to be found in office in Washington today.

About the author:

Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent at Canterbury; Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House)

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