Monday, February 6, 2017

Russians Will Pay a High Price for Obsession with US and Trump, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 6 – Russians are obsessed with Donald Trump because he allows them to imagine that they are once again a world power, Liliya Shevtsova says; but that is a dangerous misreading of the new American president and one for which Russians are going to pay a far higher price than they imagine.

            Shevtsova argues this Russian obsession about the US and Trump is dangerous because, as Jung pointed out, such a complex shows they are “losing their own identification, becoming disoriented and trying to life the life of another in order to compensate for the absence of attractiveness in their own existence” (

            Russians began to live with this obsession a long time ago, something that in fact shows exactly the opposite of what they believe, the Moscow analyst says. Again quoting Jung, she observes that “if we are obsessed that means that there is someone stronger than we ar and someone who is ruling us.”

            But for the time being, she continues, Russians think just the reverse. They see their obsession with the US as “a confirmation of their great power status” and as a guarantee of “Russian sovereignty,” goals they have not been able to achieve by any other means, Shevtsova says.

            “The Kremlin isn’t able to legitimate its power status via a show of machismo toward China: that would be suicidal. And doing it only via frightening the neighbors is humiliating. For a convincing demonstration of our power and faith in ourselves, [Russians] need a relationship with the most powerful global force,” as long as it is ready to “ignore our antics.”

            In many ways, Shevtsova says, “Obama’s America was ideal for the Kremlin,” given its desire to avoid a complete break. “But then came Trump and created a new situation,” one that Russians have almost completely misunderstood and for which failure they are likely to pay a very high price.

            That becomes obvious if one considers what Trump has declared and how Russians have failed to understand what the American president in fact means.

            Trump’s declaration that “America will act on the basis of national interests” has generated “euphoria” in Russia. “In fact, Russia should be concerned, because Trump understands ‘national interests’ not just as the rejection of advancing democracy but also readiness to compromise,” which had been the hallmark of American “hegemonism.”

            “From now on,” Shevtsova says, “Washington will rely on military force and its display, something that will mean a new arms race.  What chances does Russia have in such a race against a country whose defense budget amounts to 583 billion dollars?”

            Trump has also said that the basis of his policy will be “America above all!” This is “hardly isolationism,” as some think. It represents a form of “militant nationalism with a sense of racial superiority,” something that precludes any possibility that the Kremlin will be allowed to feel “equal” to America.

            Moreover, Shevtsova continues, “this makes any division of the world into spheres of influence doubtful. What basis is there to expect that in the era of an explosion of nationalism, Ukrainians, Belarusians or Georgians will suddenly turn away from national self-consciousness?”

            In other ways too, Trump represents a threat to Russia. He clearly believes that in any deal,” the winner gets everything,” something that could leave Moscow out in the cold. He wants to combat Iran and China, but how can Russia be involved in that without creating more problems for itself?

            But perhaps most threatening to Russia is something that many in Russia think represents the greatest possibility for their obsessions to be proved true.  Trump has said that “America is ready to cooperate with Russia in the struggle with international terrorism,” which he sees as a clash of civilizations between the Christian world and “all of Islam.

            “How will [Russians] fight with this [enemy] inside of Russia,” given that there are more than 20 million Muslims living within the country’s borders?  Viewed from that perspective, Shevtsova argues, this could be almost the best move to blow up Russia from the inside!”

            However, the most difficult challenge Trump presents to Russia comes from “the basic principle of Trump policy – its unpredictability, its Jacobin readiness to destroy existing norms and agreements.” Some think that makes Trump Putin’s ally given the Kremlin leader’s obvious desire to tear down the international order.

            “But the unpredictability of America will become a shock for Russia because the Kremlin could permit itself to make unpredictable moves only while being confident in how the West will react.” If Trump makes the Western response to any Russian move unpredictable, Moscow’s freedom of action will be significantly reduced.

            In fact, Shevtsova says, “this is then the end of the Russian game” because “the Darwinian world” Trump offers is one represents “a cold shower” for Moscow’s hotheads. They can no longer be sure how the West will react and that almost certainly will force them to be more cautious.

            But there is yet another reason why Russians will pay for their obsession with Trump, she continues. And it is this: It means that as the world turns against Trump, it will turn against Russia as well. Russophobia will increase as will suspiciousness in China and the anger in the Islamic world.

            In short, Shevtsova concludes: those in Russia now obsessed with Trump “will have to pay – and the price may turn out to be higher” than any of them can imagine.

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