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Leonid Slutsky: “A pragmatist has come to the White House”

On January 20, Donald Trump takes over as president of the United States. And after a lavish inauguration will become a full-fledged master of the Oval Office in the White House. The eight-year period of the reign of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama is over in the past, marked by armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, as well as a surge of international terrorism and information to the lowest level of relations between the two largest nuclear powers, Russia and America. And the main question today is: “What does the” Trump era “bring to the world? Will there be a turn from the line of building a unipolar world with US hegemony to a constructive approach in the foreign policy of the new American administration? And how much is Trump’s team committed to dialogue primarily with Russia?

During the election campaign, Trump made many statements about Russia, which shocked the Obama administration. It’s about the absurdity of sanctions, about the Russian choice of the Crimea, about the need for a dialogue with Russia, and about the fight against terrorism in Syria. For which he was even called a “Kremlin agent,” and after his victory over Hillary Clinton, the Western media “found” a non-existent dirt on the newly elected US president and unmistakably accused Moscow of interfering in American elections and mythical cyberattacks.

It is likely that from Trump it was pre-election rhetoric counting on the voter who was tired of the endless “small victorious wars” at the expense of American taxpayers. What will be the real foreign policy line of Trump and his administration, how much continuity in relations with Russia will be preserved in it, will be clear only after he takes office and the first decisions taken.

And here it would be naive to expect an immediate warming between Washington and Moscow. Trump himself in fact – not a pro-Russian politician, but a pro-American politician, and he will defend the interests of his country. And very, very pragmatic. This can be judged by his statements in interviews with European publications – the British The Times and the German Bild, where the Republican talks about a “nuclear deal” to abolish sanctions in exchange for nuclear disarmament. I will not comment on newspaper publications, especially when it comes to such areas as nuclear safety, where “bargaining” is not very appropriate. But this once again demonstrates, frankly, Trump’s “business approach” to cooperation with the Russian Federation. It is another matter that Russia is unlikely to discuss, let alone on such terms, the issue of sanctions that were illegally introduced bypassing the UN.

But the constructive and pragmatism is exactly what during the years of Obama’s presidency has practically disappeared from the Russian-American agenda. It’s no secret that today almost all leading dialogue platforms are blocked. In both international and bilateral formats, including the parliamentary dimension, there is simply no interaction between the Russian Federation and the United States. And this, unfortunately, is not our choice. We hope that such an ideological and propagandistic approach, calculated solely on the explicit dominance of only one party, will become a thing of the past and we will begin to hear each other again.

As for the steps to restore relations on the part of the US, here is one more question: how new the president and his team will be able to overcome the frank anti-Russian hysteria and Russophobia formed in recent years in the American political establishment.

It is indicative that Trump’s candidates held key positions in matters concerning both anti-Russian sanctions, Crimea, as well as the situation in Ukraine and Syria. We saw this when considering candidacies in the Senate of the US Congress, where we will soon have to approve the new Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the CIA. Even Rex Tillerson, rewarded by the Russian Friendship Order, whom Trump nominates for the post of head of US diplomacy, was very far from friendly remarks about Russia.

However, so far it also does not reflect Washington’s official position on the Russian direction to the full. In the senate, including among the republican majority, there are strong anti-Russian sentiments and, quite possibly, language that our country can not agree to ever, were designed specifically for the audience of congressmen and are an element of the “political game” to ensure appointments.

Against this background, the statements of the adviser to the elected president of the US on business interaction, Anthony Scaramucci, made on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos are very optimistic. In his opinion, Russia and the United States can improve relations within a year, and anti-Russian sanctions, like Moscow’s response, were not the best solution. Therefore, Russia and the United States should sit down at the negotiating table to work out an alternative. The Trump administration does not object to US companies investing in the Russian economy, Scaramucci added at the time.

Indeed, because of the sanctions, dozens of joint Russian-American projects were canceled, which caused millions of losses. And this is sensitive not only for Russia, whose economy, on the contrary, is on the path of recovery through import substitution.

So let’s get patience and wait for Trump’s official entry as president of the United States of America. Of course, we do not expect a simple and rapid restoration of Russian-American relations. At the same time, we expect that the team of Donald Trump will be ready for a pragmatic and constructive dialogue with Russia and will step back from the obsolete clichés of the Cold War era.

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