Russia and Global Security Risks
US Elections: A Bifurcation Point or Stagnation?
Online
List of speakers

On November 5, 2020, the Valdai Discussion Club hosted an online discussion, titled Elections in the United States: What to Expect for Russia? In his opening remarks, Ivan Timofeev, Programme Director of the Valdai Club, noted that over the past four years, there has been a major shift in America's relations with many countries and the question now is whether this shift proceeds further after the presidential elections, which are perceived by many as a bifurcation point.

Robert Legvold, Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and Director of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, compared what is happening now in America with the level of drama experienced in August 1991 in Russia. However, he stressed that regardless of the outcome of the elections, the stagnation in the US political system will continue and the polarisation of society will not abate. Quoting journalist Thomas Friedman, he said that whoever wins the election, America lost it. The country was unable to do what was necessary - to vote unequivocally in a moral sense, the American political scientist believes. The Trump administration may end, but the political system will not change for the better.

Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), stressed that it was too early to say goodbye to Trumpism - it became obvious that Trump enjoys support in American society and that the social division in the United States will not be overcome in the near future. In his opinion, foreign policy will move into the background for several months and there is no need to expect serious foreign policy steps from the new administration - it will be too focused on internal problems. Although stylistically Biden differs sharply from Trump and if he wins, the rhetoric and narrative in US foreign policy will change, the content of this policy will change little in many respects - just as little has changed under Trump compared to the time of Obama, for example, with respect to the development of NATO infrastructure.
Global Corporations and Economy
Economic Consequences of the US Elections
Alan W. Cafruny
The economic and social impact of neoliberal policies and practices informed the populist rhetoric that carried Trump to the White House in 2016. However, Trump assembled “the wealthiest cabinet in modern history” and governed on behalf of the major power centers of corporate America. While Biden is certain to reject Trump’s combative protectionist rhetoric, the substance of policy towards China is unlikely to depart from the present mix of military and high-tech confrontation and Wall Street’s further penetration into China’s capital markets, writes Valdai Club expert Alan W. Cafruny.
Expert Opinions


Alan Cafruny, Professor of International Affairs on the Faculty of Government at Hamilton College (USA), explained that due to the pandemic and the economic crisis, foreign policy during this election campaign was less important than in 2016. He also believes that the United States will be preoccupied mainly with an internal crisis – an economic and political one - and in an economic sense, Biden's hands will be tied not only by debt and deficits, but also by the Republican Senate. At the same time, in relations with Russia, Biden will be freer than Trump, which will give him the opportunity to take a somewhat more efficient diplomatic position.

Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director at the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies of National Research University Higher School of Economics, believes that the bifurcation point of the United States has long passed, and in American politics, despite all of the rhetorical changes, substantial continuity will remain. Trump has already irrevocably changed the paradigm of American foreign policy. The idea of ​​the United States as a provider of global public good is no longer popular among the American voters, no matter which party they vote for. The build-up of US national power and its mercantilist approach to foreign trade policy will continue, to the detriment of maintaining order throughout the world. Also, despite the fears of many, the Biden administration is unlikely to return to the unpopular policies of forceful interventionism that characterised the Obama era. At the same time, it is important that since the social split will not disappear, Biden's foreign policy steps will be torpedoed by the Republican Party.

The participants in the discussion agreed that under Biden,  US foreign policy is likely to become more multilateral and ideological. Perhaps more flexibility can be expected from his administration in the Middle East, in particular regarding Iran. The course to contain Russia and China will continue, but the instruments of containment will be slightly adjusted and the rhetoric will change. With respect to Russia, greater emphasis will be placed on human rights and support for Ukraine. The policy of sanctions will continue, but it would be difficult for Biden to radically tighten it, since Trump has already managed to introduce the main sanctions which are not associated with additional economic risks for the United States. There is some reason to hope that the Biden administration will be more willing to cooperate with Moscow on issues of mutual interest, such as arms control.