Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Moscow Split on Which of ‘Two Trumps’ It Should Rely On, Stanovaya Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – The Helsinki Summit and its political fallout have done little to resolve a fundamental debate in Moscow about which of “two Trumps” the Russian government should rely upon: the Trump who will gradually assume greater power in the US or the Trump who won’t but will continue to disorder the international environment, Tatyana Stanovaya says.

            In general terms, the Russian commentator says, “these are two different conceptions” not just of Trump but “of relations with the US.” To date, she argues, Moscow has been tacking between them; but the pursuit of the one often has gotten in the way of achieving the goals of the other (

            According to the first, “where Trump is a goal in himself, the American president can and must become the subject of the normalization of relations with Russia.” This view is widespread among diplomats, Stanovaya says; and they argue Moscow must give Trump time to overcome “the anti-Russian wave” in the US and “strengthen his positions in the American government.”

            This conception assumes the Republicans will retain their dominance in Congress after the mid-term elections and that their power, together with economic growth, “will lead to the normalization of Trump’s positions in the American establishment. With such a Trump, it will be possible to reach agreement” on a wide range of issues.

            According to the second conception “where Trump is an instrument,” she continues, “the American leader is conceived not as a subject of American foreign policy but as a mechanism of its disorientation.” In this view, “Trump is an anti-systemic politician whom the American establishment has rejected.”

            This view is held primarily by the security services who see Trump as “a suitable instrument for spreading chaos in American policies, testing for firmness the Euro-Atlantic partnership and undermining the traditional West as a single geopolitical front,” Stanovaya writes.

            “Conservative forces closely connected with the special services do not trust either Trump or any formats established with his participation. This distrust,” the Russian commentator says, “is based on the deep conviction that the entire American system works for the collapse of Russia and the undermining of the Putin regime.”

            For that part of the Russian elite, she continues, “the summit with Putin’s participation was a serious victory only because it provoked a wave of panic in the US on the lines of ‘Trump betrayed America.” Such people do not want to reach an agreement “with the US or with Trump,” and they will view any moves toward normalization as a negative development.

            What they seek is the furtherance of the spread of chaos and disorganization in the United States.  But that creates a problem because “it is impossible at one and the same time to invest in Trump as a partner and to strike at the American system because in the latter case, that system will destroy Trump.”

            To no one’s surprise, “the concept of ‘Trump as an instrument’ is for Russia much more accessible and easy to execute even as the concept of “Trump as a goal in himself’ leaves ever fewer chances for real results,” Stanovaya argues. 

            At Helsinki, Putin appeared to be the stronger leader. “But precisely in this strength is Russia’s weakness: if the Kremlin wants to invest in Trump, then this will require greater flexibility and a better understanding of the significance of ‘the Russian problem’ for the American establishment.”

            At present, however, the Russian commentator says, “the Russian elite is still not ready for that.”

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