Americas US President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Published on December 11th, 2016 | by Lidija Bojčić


New relations between the US and Russia

A large number of former American presidents have tried to create their policy towards Russia. None of them succeeded in their plans mainly because of fundamental differences in the relations between Russia and the US who have different views on the sovereignty of small states, the legal aspect of the rule in his country and on the basic foundations of the global world order.

US President-elect Donald Trump may have a different experience than their predecessors, namely, on the same as Russian President Vladimir Putin does not believe in the liberal Western values. Both want to revise the world’s political, security and economic norms and institutions created after World War II. It is evident danger for the functionality of the international order. An example of this is Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.

This new situation for Putin is far more effective than the current way of forming, connecting and funding networks populist movements in the West. The new US president will form a completely new connections with leaders of other countries and thus change the international order. Ukraine could be an example of this, namely, Trump could leave it to the Russian sphere of influence.

This new turn in US foreign policy is a problem for members of the European Union which already have problems with their own institutional reform crisis and they already have to solve challenges with Russia. Trump wants to pull out of Europe and Germany to take a leading role in Europe. However, Germany, and no other members of the European Union are not prepared for the American withdrawal from Europe. In Europe, the growing imbalance of power between large and small member states and Germany will not risk further division.

But a new US-Russian rapprochement is limited by several important factors.

Until the US election, Russia was confident and prepared to win Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, regardless of the public expressed support for her opponent Republican candidate Donald Trump. This was evident from several of Putin’s statements and speeches in October in which he emphasized the Russian uncompromising attitude towards Syria and Ukraine, and that Russia will continue to compete with US dominance in international security. Now, Russia must change paradigm and rhetoric, because Russia will not be the main enemy of America – a new situation for the Russian regime. The Russian economy has weakened low prices of oil and gas and it does not have a strategy of economic development for which it relied on an external enemy to maintain national unity.

The Russian regime is obsessed with its desire to re-power the former Soviet Union and wants to recognize themselves equal with the United States in international politics. It was one of the main reasons for Russia’s military intervention in Syria in support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. There are good prospects that the isolationist President Donald Trump could make a deal with Russia over the Syrian solution to the conflict and the future of Syrians, then the Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries, because it will primarily focus on US domestic policy. But Russia has no economic or political power to fill US void in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Russia has no economic size, but has ambitions of global military power. This will exacerbate Russia’s economic standing and could happen to its collapse, as in the Soviet Union.

In the event that Trump agree with Russia and recognize Crimea as part of Russia and Ukraine leave the Russian sphere of influence and attempts to abolish the Magnitsky Act along with the Ukrainian sanctions, it will wait for the fight at home against the strong anti-Russian Republicans who dominate the US Congress. That would be a great internal party conflict that shows that Trump is not completely accepted in their ranks and that he represents the opposite point of view of its customers. If he does not want to be blocked in the implementation of his decision, he must make compromises and alliances with their party colleagues.

Neither Ukraine would not accept a possible agreement between Trump and Putin would lead to further destabilization of the country. That would be a major catalyst for even more dangerous possibility of war in Europe, because Russia might conclude that has a free hand to solve the Ukrainian conflict to what he wants.

Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his firm resolve to spend less on NATO and defense, so the question of missile defense in Europe. The missile defense shield is a major project for the US arms industry, but it is questionable whether the Trump confronted with the greatest American industry and related lobby groups.

Many analysts argue that the fight against terrorism, particularly against the Islamic State, could become common ground for cooperation between the US and Russia. But this is unlikely, because Russia is in the first place against the groups that are fighting against Bashar al-Assad, and some of these groups have American support. The Russian regime has used the election campaign and the transition period after that to get as much territory in Syria, especially in Aleppo, regardless of civilian casualties.

All this shows that relations between the US and Russia to experience substantial progress in the near future. Trump and Putin are unpredictable, both tend to establish informal relationships, both are indifferent to the basic principles and rules of the multilateral institutions and, therefore, they will build a new foundation for relations between the two countries, but it will be short-term gains, as it will show a lack of long-term common interests. Russia believes that the Trump undermine American democracy, but it does not consider him able to build a global world order and rules. Both presidents share the same desire, they want a deconstruction of the existing world order, but they have no idea how it should look and how to build it.

To the European Union should act in these circumstances? It should work to strengthen international law and international institutions. This should be at the center of European policy with a stronger role in protecting the human rights and tolerance based on the rules of the democratic order.

But the Member States of the European Union would now should be occupied in the work on reforming the bureaucracy, the problems of globalization and ever growing populism, and the limitation of neoliberal policies. It is likely that the sanctions against Russia will continue as long as Russia is still undermining European security order and peace in eastern Ukraine. Member States will have to prove the new American president as far as NATO is important for European security and transatlantic relations, and increase investment in its own defense and security.

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