Saturday, November 14, 2020

Divisions Highlighted in US Elections Will Continue and Affect Washington’s Relations with Moscow, Shevtsova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 12 – The US election was not simply a contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden but between two views of the world; and while Biden won, his victory has not resolved larger conflict. Instead, these two positions – national conservatism and liberal globalism – will continue to compete in the US, Liliya Shevtsova says.

            And because they will, the Russian analyst continues, all other countries and Russia in particular will have to tread cautiously lest in reacting to American policies based on one of these values, they drive the US toward policies that reflect the other, something that is inherently destabilizing to the international system (

            “America,” she says, “now is confronted with a choice which it is not able to make” in any final way. There are almost the same number of people on each side of this divide. Biden has pledged to “move to the middle” of the political spectrum and build bridges to the other side. But both his own supporters and diehards on the other side will make that a difficult task.

            According to Shevtsova, “America does not have much time to rethink its positions and consolidate because China is the only civilization which the pandemic hasn’t stopped will fill any vacuum it leaves.” Moreover, and this is critical, “China has more instruments of influence than the Soviet Union did” and it has demonstrated a sure hand in its interactions with others.

            To say all this, the Russian analyst continues, is not to say that the United States won’t manage to come through this crisis period.  After all, as Winston Churchill once famously observed, “Americans always find the uniquely correct decision, after they have tried out all the others.”

            The US won’t find “self-assertion in isolation,” and Biden has committed himself to restoring American leadership, a goal that will require overcoming the distrust that four years of Trump and the positions he has adopted has sown even among the peoples who have long been America’s closest allies.’

            “What should Russia expect from an America which is searching for its truth?” There is and will remain enormous distrust, but “’normalcy’ in these relations is the ability of Moscow and Washington to control this mutual distrust and now allow it to grow into a confrontation between the two.”

            The worst thing Moscow could do is to provoke the US as it works out its internal divisions. That almost certainly would lead to the imposition of what many now call “sanctions from hell,” and the US has the capacity if it feels it must use it to impose precisely those kind of draconian measures on Russia, Shevtsova says.

            Russia today faces a particularly difficult task in this regard, not because the US wants to fight with Russia but rather “because Russia no longer is a priority for America,” even though it is very much the case that Russia’s own sense of its status is defined “on the basis of its relations with America.”

            The dangers of misreading the situation exist on both sides, but at present at least, these dangers are much greater for Moscow than they are for Washington. 

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