Multipolarity and Connectivity
Who Should We Root For in the American Elections?
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On February 29, 2024, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion dedicated to the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. Ivan Timofeev, the moderator of the discussion, emphasised that the American elections attract great attention in Russia, regardless of the state of bilateral relations.

“Elections in America are often perceived as some kind of championship in which you need to root for one of the candidates,” Timofeev noted, calling for such an approach to be avoided. He said we shouldn’t consider the candidates pro-Russian and anti-Russian, or take everything that is heard during public debates seriously. He called the future elections atypical due to the fact that both main candidates are in a relatively vulnerable position and, moreover, this time foreign policy and domestic policy problems have converged.

Robert Legvold, Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and Director of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, pointed out that the outcome of the elections is still practically unpredictable. A lot will depend on the swing states. Also, there is the possibility that one of the main candidates will withdraw his candidacy. Speaking about how events will develop if Donald Trump wins, Legvold suggested that “Trump 2.0” may turn out to be more conservative than in the first term, but radical steps, primarily regarding migrants and the supposed “deep state”, cannot be excluded. In foreign policy, the United States under Trump will be less committed to cooperation with allies and global institutions and less concerned about the Ukrainian conflict and the Taiwan issue. In relation to Russia, policy in general is unlikely to change. However, for Russia, President Trump may be somewhat preferable, since he will probably concentrate more on domestic issues. Relations with China will continue to move towards a Cold War, but a war over Taiwan is unlikely in the near future.

Dmitry Trenin, research professor at the Higher School of Economics and leading researcher at IMEMO RAS, noted that for Russia, the result of these elections is much less important than ever, since the opportunities for constructive relations with the United States are minimal. In essence, their agenda boils down to preventing a nuclear war; he emphasized that the world is on the brink of this worst-case scenario, as well as a major war in Europe. Moreover, in fact, Russia and the United States have found themselves in a state of proxy war. The decades-old paradigm of Russian-American relations, which presupposed a combination of cooperation and competition, is a matter of the past; relations have become openly hostile, and their very foundation has collapsed. Trenin, citing the words of President Putin, pointed to the possibility that in the current conditions, Russia may prefer the candidacy of Joseph Biden as a more predictable player. The expert also added that the American elections in Russia are viewed with interest, but as a kind of entertainment, without any expectations that the situation could improve.