Kiev between America and Russia: Part 1 – Trump through Russian Eyes


February 2, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski –

Eduard Popov, born in 1973 in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia in Rostov-on-Don. From 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don. He has actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts for his native Donbass and has been a guest contributor to various Donbass media, such as the Lugansk-based Cossack Media Group. Popov has actively contributed to Fort Russ since June, 2016.

Foreword from Dr. Eduard Popov: I am grateful to have the opportunity to be featured on the pages of the authoritative and brilliant Fort Russ and be able to offer readers my views on the prospects of the emerging rapprochement between the United States and Russia, as well as the place in this two-way process occupied (or to be occupied) by Ukraine. Below is the first installment in a three-part series on this evermore pressing topic. 


The outcome of negotiations between Moscow and Washington are far more important for the US than Russia. 

On Saturday evening, January 28th, a telephone conversation was held between Vladimir Putin and the new US President, Donald Trump. This was the first telephone conversation between the two leaders since Trump assumed office. Both sides hurried to release statements on the results of the talks. Perhaps the main agreement reached by the presidents over their 40 minute conversation is the mutually recognized necessity of improving bilateral relations.

As follows from the press-service releases from the White House and the Kremlin, the presidents discussed a wide range of international issues, the main of which was the Middle East. Judging by his statements, Donald Trump seriously intends to eliminate ISIS, something which is impossible without Russia’s participation.

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Both sides also evaluated the outcome of the talks with optimism. According to a representative of the US Administration, a green light was given during the talks to improving relations between the two countries. Yet an altogether different assessment of the negotiations is to be found in the American liberal media opposed to Trump. By such publications as Politico, The Hill, and others, Trump is harshly criticized by left-liberals on all fronts – from his ban on the entry of citizens from several Muslim countries to his desire to improve relations with Russia. In regards to the latter, Senator John McCain and several other American politicians have been particularly active, even promising to prevent this by all means through Congress. Side by side are leveled very rigid and adamant allegations of a connection between supposed interference by Russian hackers in the American elections and Trump’s policy towards Russia. Not even concrete initiatives, but Trump’s intent to improve relations alone is seen through the prism that Russia allegedly helped Trump win the elections, thereby now obliging him to “make it up” to Putin. Trump’s critics’ plan is very simple: they strive to drive a wedge in front of any step aimed at improving bilateral relations with Russia, which in itself will be characterized as a serious blow to the legitimacy of the new US President, thereby tying his hands.

However, as far as we can judge based on an analysis of the left-liberal American press, the restriction of immigration from Muslim countries has for now eclipsed the “popularity” of the Russian topic. 

Russia is openly interested in and even to a certain extent hopes for an improvement of relations between the two countries. Even though Trump himself has repeatedly said that he will be a “tough” partner for Putin, Russia generally looks at the future of Russian-American relations with cautious optimism. In Russia, Trump’s electoral victory was perceived as a victory of American egoism and common sense over the false thinking of the new American supranational elites. For Russians, Trump is not a US President that is beneficial for Russia, but a President of the United States who will look after America’s real national interests. 

Of course, Russia could greatly win or lose with the line which the new American leader will take. Yet Russia’s successes is only dependent on American policy to a very limited extent. China, in my opinion, is dependent on relations with the US to a much larger extent, just as the US is heavily dependent on China. Russia has no intent of harboring illusions over future partnership with the US in the face of Donald Trump. However, Trump’s famous words that he will be a “tough” partner for Vladimir Putin have a hidden meaning: the US is now compelled to reckon with Russia. America is ceasing to be the only superpower in the modern world and is becoming the “first among equals.”

To call things by their names, let us recall how in the 1990’s and even early 2000’s, Russia was indeed dependent on the US. But starting with approximately the August War of 2008, the principles underlying the two countries’ relations cardinally changed. Under current conditions, we are no longer dealing with a Moscow dependent on Washington. Today’s Russia will not agree to anything less than equal relations with the US. In the words of the penetrating distinction of the famous Russian international affairs expert, Mikhail Demurin: “It’s better for there to be cooperation [between Russia and the US], albeit difficult, but the most important is for this to be fair and equal.” 

Donald Trump is seen from Russia as a symbiosis of an American patriot and an American imperialist, perhaps with a clear predominance of the first aspect. His opponents from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s camp are not patriots at all, but imperialists (interventionists). Today’s Russia – and I say this with sincere joy – has rid itself of the imperial legacy which ultimately proved unsustainable for the country. America has also overextended itself and is obviously already crumbling under the wight of its imperial burdens. If this had been extended by another four, or even eight year term of Democratic rule, then perhaps it would have been too late to save America.

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In this introduction, we’ve described the view on Trump predominant in Russian patriotic circles and added to this some of our own considerations. Now let us turn attention towards the country which has with great worry and anxiety anticipated the outcome of negotiations between the presidents of Russia and the US. This country is none other than Ukraine. As we will see in the next installment, Ukraine is no longer a monolith, and we can already begin to speak of two “Ukraines”. 

To be continued in Part 2…

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