“As recently as last week, Donald appeared on Russian state television, criticized the American military and kowtowed to Vladimir Putin. He is in love with this man, just in love” — so, from the point of view of Barack Obama, foreign concept looks like Donald trump against Russia. But what is left of this “love for Putin” if the Republican presidential candidate will indeed be elected head of state?
What real political line in relation to our country, he will pursue? And much of this line will differ from the political course Hillary Clinton?
The President of the international Federation Council Committee Konstantin Kosachev and former special assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush That Graham is a very different people with very different political views. But they share one thing: years of immersion in Russian-American relations and a sincere desire to reintroduce these to establish relationships. Here are their thoughts on how it can be done. Here is their forecast for the future of Russian-American relations under the new President of the United States.
photo: Natalia Muslinkina
— How can you change the Russian-American relations if he wins the election, Donald trump and if he wins the election, Hillary Clinton?
Konstantin Kosachev: — On the prospects of Russian-American relations in case of a victory of a particular candidate in the presidential elections in the United States need to speak with a great amendment to several factors.
First, considerable inertia of the American political system, which is very difficult to change your movement vector, even if there is such a shaking as a change leader. Recall, for example, been canceled as the famous amendment of Jackson—Vanik amendment imposed restrictions on Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. The amendment, as we all remember, for many years survived the Soviet Union and all possible bans. Of course, the administration in the White house has the freedom of maneuver. However, to completely ignore the opinions of Congress, lobbyists and big business it is, of course, can not.
Secondly, I would not too much attention to all that is said in election fever. Not necessarily that all the promises, threats and predictions are then made by the winner of the election. Now all efforts of candidates is directed to the demonstration of confidence, the maximum blackening of the opponent and the game on the most important voter topics.
Of course, the feature of the current campaign — a special place of Russia among this important voter topics. First of all, in the context of the call for America, which of course is paramount for both contenders for first position in the state. But the difference is already felt today. If trump can be heard replica in the spirit of “I agree with Putin, Clinton often sounds the opposite.
However, again, to buy all these pre-election statements and build on the basis of serious calculations I would not recommend it. It would be reasonable to assume about this logic. The arrival of the White house trump with a high probability would change. But how deep can be these changes and what they can be? Obama in 2009, too, came to the White house with the winds of change, and eventually rolled to a confrontation with Russia in the spirit of the worst days of the cold war and to significant problems with China.
Trump, obsessed with the idea to re-make America strong, can implement this idea in both positive and very dangerous for others, including Russia, the key. And here the inertia of the American system may even play a positive role, holding too hot the plans of the leader. On the other hand, Clinton is almost guaranteed one hundred percent no change. That is done everything will be as before, only with greater urgency. It will concern both Russia and Ukraine, and Syria, and NATO, and missile defense, and many other subjects where we see obvious mistakes of the current administration.
Tom Graham: — by any serious attempt to answer this question it is necessary to keep in mind the four circumstances. First, what the candidate says during the election campaign, as a rule, does not necessarily become his policies after he takes office. Awareness of their direct personal responsibility for the consequences of decisions, deeper understanding of what in reality is happening between Russia and USA at government level, — all this inevitably leads to a more sober assessment of the costs and benefits of any policy in relation to Russia.
George Bush, as you remember, came to power promising a tougher line against Moscow. But barely six months after his inauguration, Bush started talking about a fundamentally different relationship with Russia — a relationship that has left far behind the era of the cold war and were in the process of moving towards a strategic partnership.
So I wouldn’t make too strong conclusions either from sharp criticism of Hillary Clinton in relation to Russia or compliments trump against Putin. Moreover, we must not forget that neither of the candidates is not made with anything that even remotely resembled a concrete programme of action concerning Russia.
Second, American foreign policy is actually much more continuity than it would like to recognize candidates during the election campaign. American interests and American opportunities are not changing dramatically at the moment of coming to power of the new administration. Decisions that were previously taken by the previous administration, to create conditions in which to operate the new power team. This, of course, does not mean that change is impossible. But these changes are usually gradual and not at once.
Third, the current problems in Russian-American relations are much deeper than the identity of the American and Russian leaders. There are significant differences in the worldviews, different ideas about the proper world order and conflicting geopolitical interests. None of this will disappear with the change of administration in Washington.
Finally, what will happen depends on the expectations and actions of Washington and Moscow. The appearance in Washington of a new administration is an opportunity for a new start in Russian-American relations. Or at least the opportunity for a fresh start in the sense of the atmosphere of these relations.
But what happens in reality, will equally depend on what position Moscow will decide to take in relation to the new administration and what are the objectives of Russia towards the United States.
If the root problems are political differences, whether Moscow is ready to rethink its policies in order to improve its relations with the United States? Or Moscow intends to wait the first step from Washington? Of course, Moscow’s actions in some way depend on how it will evaluate the next President. And I believe that the anti-Putin and anti-Russian rhetoric of Clinton during the election campaign does not make it a more attractive figure in the eyes of the Russian leadership.
Within the boundaries outlined above broad framework, there are likely differences of policies of President Clinton and President of the trump against Russia — the differences of presentation rather than substantive nature.
Clinton will probably be to use a much more harsh rhetoric — at least in the first months of his administration. She tries to take steps that will attest to the fact that it is much more strict towards Russia than President Obama. But most likely, it is when it’s foundations, its course in relation to Russia will not be much different from the rate of Obama.
Trump will use more positive rhetoric. But what it will do in terms of real political action, is still unknown — perhaps even to himself. In any case, trump is very likely will encounter the following: very many people in the higher echelons of power will urge him to treat Russia much more cautious than it follows from his current speeches during the election campaign.
But at the same time, any new President — no matter whether they are trump or Clinton, is likely to try at least to restore working relations with Russia at all levels of government. And the reasons for this lie in the fact that we need reliable communication channels, even then — I would say especially then, when between us there are very serious disagreements. But what in our relationship, so this is a radical change for the better or the worst, simply because the United States has a new President.
— Not peculiar to the Russian authorities underestimate the role of Congress in the American political system?
Tom Graham: I agree that such underestimation occurs. And this is another reason why a radical change in US policy towards Russia — changes for the better or worse — is unlikely in the near future.
It is no secret that Russia’s reputation in Congress now lies in ruins. And this situation will not change once in the US will be the new composition of Congress. An overwhelming majority of seats in the new composition of Congress will take people who have worked there previously.
If you look at the situation more broadly, and Russia in General and Putin personally have been demonized in the public discussions in the United States. That is why the election headquarters of Clinton is actively trying to associate the figure of the tramp with the figure of Putin. That’s why trump called Russian agent.
But at the same time, the thesis that in relation to Russia it is necessary to conduct a much more aggressive course, has a very small support. And if Russia’s actions will not be perceived as even more direct and immediate challenge to the United States or our allies in Europe than it is now, this situation will not change.
Konstantin Kosachev: — Our relations with the United States Congress is, as they say, is my sore spot. I very well remember the era when we still in my tenure as Chairman of the Duma Committee on international Affairs held a joint meeting with a similar Committee of the house of representatives. Moreover, these meetings were full-length. We sat for eight hours, discussing broad bilateral agenda. But then it was all rolled up — rolled up primarily on the initiative of the American side. Changed faces, changed the rhetoric gave way to reality in its entirety.
However, I did not cease to build bridges with colleagues in the U.S. Senate from the beginning of my stay and the current head of the Federation Council Committee on international Affairs. It is clear that today it is much harder to do, given the General mood of Congress towards Russia. And this attitude, alas, mostly negative, even in comparison with the mood of the White house and the state Department.
Nevertheless, my repeated contacts with congressmen — and I had a chance to chat with them in the US and in Russia and in third countries in the fields of international events, showed that many of them ripe for contacts with Russia. Frank even our opponents admit that we learned a lot from conversations with us and often was not until the end or altogether misinformed on many topics with regard to Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and the like. Therefore to speak about any underestimation on our part of the importance of the dialogue with the congressmen you should not.
Let’s just say dialogue is only as ready for the Americans. But this does not remain passive. Although I can’t talk now about all the details of our communication with colleagues.
Objective restrictions in our relations is, first, of course, still anti-Russian inter-party consensus in both houses of Congress. I hope that the upcoming elections in the United States, coupled with the possible success of bilateral diplomacy will be able to some extent to shake the lock. We are open to discussions — discussions-here and now.
And second, aggravating factors are the existing sanctions against parliamentarians of both parties accepted, of course, not at our initiative. This creates the basic difficulties to travel. It would not be desirable that such restrictions lived as much as lived the amendment of Jackson—Vanik.
— Is there currently a real opportunity to improve relations between Russia and the United States? Who and what needs to be done?
Konstantin Kosachev: — Is the expression of Cicero: “to err is Human, and the fool — to insist on his mistake.” I would, of course, did not like the fact that we have the current deadlock in Russian-American relations for several years. Especially I would not like to enhance these those dead ends from the environment of Hillary Clinton, who is known for his liberal Messianic visions (is, incidentally, not alien to her). It could bring back peace in the era of the rocket-bomb of the export of democracy — but on a more dangerous level. Level when it is not just the latest practitioners of a unipolar world superpower in the silence of all the others, and the reason for a new round of global confrontation with the direct military risks.
Therefore, an alternative, apparently, looks like this: if we believe that, although today everything is bad, but convenient for its predictability, Clinton, in this sense, we are the obvious choice. If we are absolutely not satisfied with the current situation and any change — even at the risk of turning for the worse — better predictable stalemate, trump, of course, preferable. But work can and should be both. Because to build relations with Russia will have any winner of the presidential elections in the United States. In this way, the obvious merit of Russia and its active foreign policy.
I would maintain a cautious optimism, based, again, on personal communication: there is interest. And he is quite mutual. Just need to continue to work hard. There is a famous Chinese saying: “the Man who could move a mountain, he started with what was dragged from place to place pebbles”. Work this way.
Tom Graham: I think there is no quick way to drastically get rid of the problems plaguing our relationship. Improving these relationships is a very difficult task, to perform which will take a considerable period of time. This work should be made broad segments of the elites in each country. And the point of this work will be to change in each country, the dominant view about the other.
Where such work may start? The white house and the Kremlin needs to send a signal: they want to improve their relations and welcomes the contacts between experts to develop ideas on this. And of course, something must be done to restore trust — not only between our leaders but also between our countries and their foreign policy elites.
The ability to reach consensus on a specific set of facts relating to any particular issue, there will be a significant step forward. Although, of course, this step is not absolutely mandatory. For example, we could — at least in theory — to find a solution to Ukrainian crisis without changing the position of any party regarding the causes of the crisis. All that is required to resolve the crisis is the emergence of the Russian Federation and the United States understanding: the continuation of this crisis poses a direct and immediate threat to both our countries.
And the last one. I don’t think we will ever improve our relations and to find for them a solid Foundation if we are not willing to at least honestly admit that the differences that divide us. It is necessary to abandon attempts to impose on the other side blame for all the troubles and problems. Instead, we should try to look at the situation from the point of view of the other side. We need to think about what each party can better protect its national interests if we were working together, not against each other. But we are still obviously very far from anything like that.