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'Very Risky Period': Trump's Effect On U.S.-Russian Relations, As Seen In Moscow

Mikhail Sokolov November 10, 2016

Two days after the election of real-estate tycoon Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, independent Russian political analysts are wrestling with what it could mean for bilateral relations.

Despite indications that Trump might be less critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and more willing to make deals with Moscow than his predecessor, he remains an enigma.

RFE/RL's Russian Service asked independent Russian analysts about their sense of the potential opportunities and dangers of this new phase of international relations.

Ilya Yashin, opposition politician

"Russian propaganda and the American media definitely created [for Trump] a reputation as Putin's agent. Both [Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's] electorate and Putin's electorate are absolutely certain that this is Putin's victory, that the Kremlin got its president of the United States. And for Trump, this is an enormous problem, because now he must prove that he is not Putin's candidate.

"How, exactly, he will prove this, considering the specifics of his character, his temperament, and his unusual political experience, we can only guess."

Vladimir Lukin, former Russian ambassador to the U.S. and a former member of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee

"Regarding Russia, we can only say that the cliché of Russia as a bugbear did not work with the [U.S.] electorate. Voters did not go for this -- this is already a clear signal from which the new administration will proceed.

"If I were in our administration, I would seriously be thinking about offering the new administration the chance to begin from a clean slate or, if you prefer, with a serious, major reset that does not concentrate on past offenses or lapses or who is right and who is to blame -- one that concentrates on the most important priorities, the most important issues of global politics and bilateral relations at the most pragmatic level. If that happens, there is a good chance that we can begin a dialogue. But where it will lead, who knows?"

Viktor Kuvaldin, professor at the Moscow School of Economics

"I also think the best thing for us to do is to try to begin from a clean slate, even though this is impossible. There is Ukraine. There is Syria. There is the main question: Do we accept the role of the United States as the only global superpower or don't we? And does the United States recognize our rightful interests as a regional power with multiregional interests from Northern Europe to East Asia? There is no way to avoid these issues.

"But what we can do in the realm of official policy is to end the propaganda war with its over-the-top anti-Americanism. This hasn't brought anything good to our country and it isn't going to. We shouldn't build up illusions. America is what it is and it isn't going to change. It will conduct policy first of all according to its interests. But our vital interest is in having with America the best possible relations at any given moment. In this sense, Trump's election opens a small window of opportunity."

Stanislav Belkovsky, political analyst and consultant

"The important thing isn't whether there will be a [Trump-Putin] summit, but what would be on the agenda and what might the results be. I agree that Donald Trump might make some specific concessions to Russia on local matters. I also agree with the supposition that Trump, as a businessman, is used to reaching agreements with everyone. He is more likely to be able to reach one with Vladimir Putin than Hillary Clinton, on a whole range of issues.

"But we cannot discount the factor of Trump's unpredictability. Trump does need to shed his unexpected reputation as a Russian agent. He needs to somehow get around it and that could bring Russia some pleasant or unpleasant surprises.

"[On Ukraine] I think that nothing fundamental will change. The sanctions will not be lifted. They might be eased to some extent, and, of course, for Vladimir Putin that will be a huge psychological victory -- for him personally. But it won't help Russia's future development because Russian now is strongly turning away from the tried-and-true road of civilization. It is trying to dig itself in to a world that does not exist -- the Yalta-Potsdam world that disappeared in 1989 but which is discussed today by the Russian establishment as if it still exists.

"Most of what Trump has said falls into the category of isolationism. Historically, isolationism -- unfortunately, if you are talking about Europe -- always ended with one thing: world war that sucked America in with large financial and human costs for itself as well as for Europe. Unfortunately, Trump's ideas are that Europe should look after itself, that East Asia should look after itself, that America will save money and become great and rich -- and this really worries me. I don't think it can lead to anything good.

"I think we are entering a very risky period, because it seems to me that in May 2014 Russia stopped with just two regions of eastern Ukraine and didn't complete its further project of Novorossia as a result of the Kremlin's understanding that further expansion could lead to a full-scale war. Only that, in my opinion, saved Ukraine at that time. If Washington sends another signal, unfortunately, that it is not prepared to defend the countries of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, that America does not intend to live up to its commitments to NATO, this will result in another spiral of Russian territorial expansion with all its consequences."

Selected and translated by RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/russia- experts-weigh-in-trump-effect-us- russia-relations/28108596.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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