Donald Trump wins US Elections: What’s next for Russia?

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November 9, 2016 – 

By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

A few hours ago, the results of the US presidential elections were released. As is clear according to the results currently available, Donald Trump is the winner, even though Hillary Clinton won in terms of number of votes. This result was a sensation. I admit that I was sure that the “real victory” would be won by Trump while Clinton would become president. Almost all of my friends that are specialists on the US political system thought so as well.

But now other questions should interest us: what will Donald Trump’s victory mean for Russia and what line of conduct should our country adopt? Perhaps the best and most concise response to this question has already been given by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 

Commenting on the news of Trump’s victory and Vladimir Putin’s statement that Russia is ready to work with any new leader of the US, Lavrov said: “We’ve heard a lot of words, but we will judge according to deeds and respond on a case by case basis.” In other words, Lavrov urged us not to deceive ourselves with the myth of a victorious “pro-Russian candidate”, but instead uphold a more balanced approach to and evaluation of the facts.

In fairness, it should be said that Donald Trump himself never gave reason to think that he considers himself or should be considered a “pro-Russian.” He repeatedly stated that he will be a tough partner for Vladimir Putin because he will put US national interests first and foremost. Trump also made a similar statement today. The many people in Russia who believe this eccentric billionaire to be anyone else towards Russia should ask themselves why. 

The beginning of the first presidential term of another Republican, George W. Bush, saw the development of excellent trusting relations with Vladimir Putin. Russia was the first to lend a hand to support the American people and its president following the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. But by the end of the first term, relations between the two countries (and leaders) were corrupted. Russia did not receive what it was promised (if there were any behind-the-scenes agreements) and, on the contrary, it gained a lot of evidence of the not-so-gentlemanly behavior of the Americans.

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But I think that Trump will behave fundamentally differently. As some experts deeply knowledgeable of the US political system believe, Trump’s foreign policy strategy is far from complete and is for now just a set of principles. The field for changing US foreign policy is therefore open.

Moreover, Trump’s victory already bodes some positive results. Here are a few of them:

1. Trump’s victory is a cold shower for Ukraine, which hedged its bets exclusively on Hillary Clinton winning. Now the Ukrainians’ confidence is diminishing. 

2. The sharpness of the NATO-Russia confrontation will be reduced (at least for the near future). I did not seriously believe in the prospects of a Third World War, but rather in the likelihood of localized clashes with the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

3. If Trump fulfills his main promise, which is transitioning from exporting the American order to the rest of the world to resolving the US’ numerous domestic problems, then an international discharge will inevitably happen. Trump has already stated that he puts the US’ interests above all and will respect America’s partners in the world.

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I believe that some rather strange circumstances surrounding Trump’s victory (such as the FBI ‘leaks’ and its director’s statements) suggest that Trump was allowed to win. The American establishment perhaps did not want further escalation up to a possible clash with Russia. These are just words, perhaps assumptions in the absence of information, and perhaps I am not right. The future will show whether the optimists are right. I still posit that relations between the two countries will once again deteriorate after some time. Then again, some forecasts are good because they don’t come true or just the opposite happens. 

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