Staunton, November 9 – The first reactions of Moscow commentators to Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections is that this was the American version of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, a step that will further undermine globalization and give Russia greater move for maneuver but that will not necessarily transform the US-Russian relationship.
In his telegram of congratulations to Trump, Vladimir Putin expressed the hope that this would lead to an improvement in that relationship, words that may be nothing more than pro forma but that encourage some and worry others (versia.ru/putin-pozdravil-trampa-i-vyrazil-nadezhdu-na-uluchshenie-rossijsko-amerikanskix-otnoshenij).
But an editorial in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” points out that in recent days, Russian government media have suggested that Trump may not be a good thing for Russia and may even be worse, something that suggests the Kremlin wants to continue to use hostility to the West as a mobilizing principle (ng.ru/editorial/2016-11-09/2_6854_red.html).
That represents a clear departure from earlier Moscow media treatments which suggested Trump’s election would better serve Russia’s interests because of his nationalistic positions, his expressions of support for and defense of Putin and because there will be uncertainty for a time that the Kremlin can hope to exploit.
But five commentaries this morning agree that Trump’s election resembles the Brexit vote in that it is a revolt of the masses against globalized elites, that it will weaken alliances on which the Western world has been built, and that may even presage further events that will herald the end of the era of globalization.
Given that Russia has few if any allies and given the reliance of the US on its alliances up to now, the more nationalistic and even isolationist approach that these commentators see and in most cases welcome should in their view give Moscow a chance to break out of its isolation and gain influence by allowing the Kremlin to work one-on-one with other states.
But some are also suggesting that Trump’s elections, even if it is a tactical victory for Putin, represents a strategic defeat for Russia because Trump is an American nationalist and wants to re-industrialize the US by making use of raw material supplies from countries like the Russian Federation.
First, the Odnako portal says that Trump’s election “recalls most of all” the Brexit vote in Britain, something that all the elite voted against but that the population voted for. The same thing has now happened in the US and this trend can be expected to spread, giving Moscow an opening (odnako.org/blogs/pohozhe-amerikanci-ustroili-svoy-breksit/).
Second, on the Kasparov.ru portal, Sergey Ivanov-Dnepr argues that Trump’s victory highlights the emergence of “a new stage in the development of democratic society which may be called ‘Brexitism’ or ‘Trumpism.’ A response to the 2008 economic crisis, it seeks a way out by breaking with the past (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5822C863B9A5C).
Third, liberal Moscow commentator Viktor Shenderovich says that “the victory of a conservative populist in Hungary or Turkey is a misfortune but the victory of [one] in the most important power of the world is of course very dangerous.” He expresses the hope that the US system will moderate Trump in the future (echo.msk.ru/blog/shenderovich/1870878-echo/).
Fourth, nationalist commentator Maksim Kalashnikov says that he “greets Vladimir Putin with a clear tactical victory. The Kremlin’s information interference turned out to be an effective weapon. I take off my hat,” he concludes. But he warns that not everything about Trump’s victory will be pleasing to Moscow (forum-msk.org/material/news/12459335.html).
Moscow must recognize, Kalashnikov says, that Trump is “an American nationalist and not a Russian one.” The new president may make concessions to Moscow on Ukraine and Syria but only because his main goal is the reindustrialization of the US and the continued use of countries like Russia as raw materials suppliers.
That means, he continues, that Putin’s tactical victory may quickly turn into a strategic defeat because “it is a fact that the realization by Trump of his election programs is death to a raw material based and neo-feudal Russian Federation,” whatever people in the Kremlin may think they gain in the short term.
And fifth, Aleksandr Razuvayev, a Moscow analyst writing for the Regnum news agency, says that it is important to recognize that what Russian nationalists like best about Trump is not his turning away from an assertive foreign policy but rather the fact that he like them “desnt like globalization” (regnum.ru/news/economy/2203109.html).
Such people, he says, “sincerely believe that Trump is the end of globalization.” But in fact, the Moscow analyst says, the most he can do is put it on pause for a time. If Russia uses that pause to diversity its economy, it will benefit; but if it doesn’t and simply continues as it has been the last 15 years, it won’t.
Moreover, Razulayev says, Russians should not overrate the ability of one individual, even the new American president, to transform “the foreign policy of such a global empire as the US.” To bre sure, Trump may make compromises on Syria and Ukraine, but the real issue is Russia’s access to capital – and on that Trump seems unlikely to make any change at all.