February 25, 2018

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Russia Direct Report: The New Face of America

By Victoria I. Zhuravleva, Nicolai N. Petro, Aurel Braun and Christopher Hartwell

Russia Direct Report, November 2016

CONTENTS
1. The ‘Russian Card’ in the 2016 US presidential election
2. From Obama to Trump: Cold War averted. What now?
3. Why US policy toward Russia will not take a U-turn under Trump
4. Business trumps sanctions?
5. Interview with Evgeny Minchenko: The US elections and Trump’s presidency through the lens of a Russian political consultant

Description

The recent election of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States has the potential to change the current U.S.-Russian relationship in new and unique ways. Yet, it would be an oversimplification to say that a Trump presidency and the alleged “bromance” between Trump and Putin necessarily implied an improvement in the bilateral relationship.

While there may be a short honeymoon period during Trump’s first months in office, the longer-term question is whether the U.S. and Russia really have any core economic and security interests in common. For example, Trump’s vision of America as an inward-looking energy superpower willing to step away from free trade treaties around the world hardly seems to augur well for efforts at a more cohesive bilateral economic relationship with Russia.

Moreover, even if the two nations do have shared security interests – such as a common desire to defeat ISIS – will a shared legacy of U.S.-Russian mistrust eventually sabotage any efforts to improve the relationship?

As Russian scholar Victoria I. Zhuravleva points out, the notion of Russia as the “Other” continues to pervade the way America views Russia. As long as Russia is seen as a power willing to meddle in American domestic politics and frustrate American strategic ambitions in Europe and the Middle East, there is little real hope of the Trump administration being able to include Russia in any new security architectures. From a Russian perspective, the American approach to foreign policy has always relied too much on values and ideology. What’s needed, says top Russian political consultant Evgeny Minchenko, is a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy. What both powers need to recognize is that the rise of China will have implications for the U.S.-Russian relationship.

Ultimately, Trump’s efforts to “make America great again” may not coincide with Russia’s own views of America’s role in the world. And, as this report points out, the surprising election of Trump must be taken within a broader context, in which the European integration project is in crisis and the rise of populism around the globe has even many Western scholars challenging traditional definitions of democracy. Through interviews with top political analysts and thought-provoking pieces by top Western and Russian scholars, this report attempts to bring a more nuanced and sophisticated analysis as to what lies ahead for the U.S.-Russian relationship in 2017.

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