Andrey Kortunov: Anti-Russ. consensus in Wash. remains strong, even if Trump wins

Andrey Kortunov: “Anti-Russ. consensus in Wash. remains strong, even if Trump wins”

In the first session of a series of sessions titled “Predicting the Unpredictable,” concerning the consequences of Donald Trump’s possible second term as the US president, Dr. Andrey Kortunov, the Academic Director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) discussed the future of Russia-US relations in a webinar held on May 7. According to him, it will be easier for Trump to interact with Putin, especially since he has always treated Putin with respect – at least officially. Trump, unlike Biden, has never allowed himself to call Putin a “criminal” or a “murderer.” However, what Trump says about the resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine seems more like election talk. It is unlikely that this conflict will be his main priority. Of course, it is possible that he wants to play a similar game, such as a meeting with the North Korean leader, and arrange a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, so finally can claim a victory for himself through the news and media coverage. Especially since Trump’s possible efforts to broker a deal with Ukraine may face obstacles, since both Democratic and Republican parties are not willing to accept the compromise he proposes. It is more likely that such a compromise will occur with the mediation of another party, for example, China. In this regard, the most important red line for Russia in negotiations with Ukraine and the West is security. Russia must make sure that Ukraine will not be used as a fortress that endangers Russia’s security. This means applying some restrictions on the armed forces of Ukraine, adopting a neutral status by Ukraine, taking some confidence-building measures, and reassuring the Russian leadership about the country’s border with Ukraine would be necessary. The second red line concerns the rights of the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine who want to maintain their ties with Russia.

Regarding the US sanctions against Russia, it does not seem that Trump intends to remove these sanctions, but he will only suspend some of them, such as the “Jackson-Vanik amendment.” Currently, there is a strong anti-Russian consensus within the United States, which its change is unlikely in the short term. Regardless of who occupies the White House, such a consensus will limit any efforts to improve the relationship between the US and Russia. Nevertheless, there are opportunities for Russia, China, and Iran in the second term of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Because when a president is not going to participate in another election, he or she would be more flexible.

Russia’s view of US-China relations is delicate. While Moscow may be interested in some tensions, it would not like to see a complete break-up and possible military conflict, as its severe ramifications would be harmful for the global economy including Russia. It should be noted that if the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine ends with the two sides coming to terms, Americans will be more inclined to focus on China rather than Russia, since China is a serious strategic challenge that they will have to deal with in the coming years.

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