Russian political analysts view the upcoming four years as a tumultuous period for the next U.S. president, whether it’s Clinton or Trump.
People cast their ballots at Takoma Park Middle School, in Takoma Park, Maryland, November 8, 2016. Photo: AP
The preliminary results of the U.S. presidential election in the first states that have already voted indicate that there is little or no gap between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent Donald Trump. The intrigue has remained, even as voters head to the polls in the final hours of the election.
Until the final Election Day, a series of scandals, investigations and mutual finger-pointing have accompanied the 2016 presidential campaign. With just days to go before the final voting, James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), once again suggested Clinton might have used her personal e-mail to conduct potentially illegal correspondence when she was U.S. Secretary of State. This move brought about an outcry, with the supporters of Clinton blaming him for supporting the Republicans and pressuring the Democrats. However, shortly before the voting started, he acquitted Clinton in the court of public opinion and, naturally, faced the criticism from the Grand Old Party (GOP).
Most interesting, it remains to be seen how the defeated candidate will respond to the victory of his or her rival. This is one of the major intrigues. Remarkably, Trump has already admitted the possibility of his failure at the elections. But will he remain active as part of the American political scene?
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According to a new report, “The Next President of the United States,” prepared by Russian experts from the Foreign Policy Advisory Group, Trump could remain active in political life. They presented their analysis shortly before the U.S. Election Day and made forecasts about the American political future: Uncertainty and political divide within the nation will be the major characteristic of a new political cycle in the United States. This, in turn, will have an impact on international relations and make the world even more unpredictable.
One of the most serious challenges for the new U.S. president will be the political divide within American society, as indicated by the 2016 presidential campaign. To tackle this problem and reassure the people, the next head of the White House will have to focus not on the country’s foreign policy, but on the domestic one.
After all, the key demand from society is the fair and equal distribution of government benefits. Yet without a national consensus between different representatives of the American population, such a mission will be challenging to implement.
“The presidential candidates don’t propose a program of how to resolve the structural problems of their country,” said one of the authors of the report, Andrei Sushentsov, the director of the Foreign Policy Advisory Group. “They themselves reflect the symptoms of these problems. That’s why, no matter what the results of the presidential race will be, the key trend in the political life of the U.S. will remain uncertainty.”
According to the experts, persisting scandals and the overhanging threat of criminal trials will become commonplace for the tenure of the next American president.
The professional profile of a new president
Interestingly, during the entire presidential campaign, neither Trump nor Clinton ever saw high political approval rates: Their negatives outweighed their positives. The authors of the report explain this trend with the fact the American population was disappointed with the political elites of the U.S.
“The key problem of Clinton is the ambiguity of her image — voters and her close allies see her in very different ways,” said one of the report’s authors, Maxim Suchkov, associate professor of Pyatigorsk State University. “The gap in perception is a matter of concern for Clinton, because she seeks to gain favor with everybody. However, this only deepens distrust toward her.”
Indeed, by the end of the presidential campaign about 55 percent of Americans didn’t trust her, with approximately 14 percent seeing her in a favorable way.
At the same time, the authors of the report believe that Clinton is more capable of political maneuvering than Trump.
“Clinton changed her positions on domestic and foreign policy questions more than once if she thought it was rational,” Suchkov said, pointing out that she tried to straddle between several camps within her party, when faced with the necessity of a difficult choice.
Nevertheless, despite her tough rhetoric towards Russia, Clinton is ready to come up with a compromise if Moscow is ready for it as well, the authors argue.
Unlike Clinton, who has extensive experience in diplomacy, Trump is more blunt and outspoken. His supporters appreciate that, but opponents lambast it. His flamboyant image helps him to stay in the media spotlight, but replacing the substance in discussion with emotional statements is risky for Trump as president, the experts point out.
“If elected president, Trump will have to modify his style of communication to make his work easier. But over the history of his media presence, Trump never presented himself in a different light,” points out Olga Rebro, senior analyst at the Foreign Policy Advisory Group, one of the authors of the report.
According to this expert, Trump seeks pragmatism in both domestic and foreign policy and his victory might mean a rebuilding of the whole bureaucratic apparatus – and Washington is not ready for that. Even if he loses, Trump will not leave the scene, argues one of the authors of the report, Andrei Bezrukov, an associate professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University).
“Trump’s ideas are in demand among the public," he told Russia Direct. "The failure to form a national consensus will lead to the radicalization of the right wing [of the Republican Party].”
Speaking about U.S.-Russia relations, Trump repeatedly expressed his readiness to take into account and respect Russia’s interests, but Russian experts are not quick to make any long-term conclusions.
“For now Trump has not yet offered any specific steps to improve relations with Russia. If he wins, Republicans from the establishment will join his administration. As a result, Washington will see the same bureaucratic apparatus that formulated inter-party consensus on relations with Russia in the 1990s,” Sushentsov pointed out.
Whoever becomes the new president of the United States, it will not be possible to “fix” Russian-American relations through a new reset. What the relationship needs is not a renovation, but a complete reconstruction, the authors of the report suggest.
Nevertheless, the sides are not ready for this, so “the current state of bilateral relations will remain the same for a while.” It is most likely that over the coming four years, the relationship will generally remain as it is, with slight changes in positive or negative direction depending on particular political events.
“The crisis in Ukraine pushed Russia towards China and this plays against U.S. long-term interests. One might expect the U.S. to make attempts to get Russia’s support in deterring China. Washington will gradually lift the sanctions, influencing Russia to act as the U.S. would prefer it to act,” the report reads.
“The 2016 pre-election campaign has started a process of reassessing the U.S.’s place, role and options [in the world]. Americans need to decide whether they want to defend the global system they created, which idealist and bureaucrat Clinton is ready to do, or defend only a part of it which is directly integrated with the U.S. – the Anglo-Saxon world, that realist and businessman Trump seeks to do,” Bezrukov pointed out in the report.
At the same time, the authors are confident that whoever becomes the 45th president of the U.S., he or she will be “a one-term president,” as neither Clinton nor Trump will not be able to satisfy the growing demand for change among the public.