Russian senator calls for new agenda in relations with USA

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Russian senator calls for new agenda in relations with USA
Published 10-02-2017, 18:46
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council International Affairs Committee: Quo vadis, America? Senator Konstantin Kosachev on new vector of international relations along which the United States has come with Donald Trump

The American Interest magazine recently came up with the thesis that never before in American history has the proposed foreign policy of a new Administration been cloaked in such uncertainty. The question which is haunting both the United States' opponents and its allies in the world is: Quo vadis, America? At a roundtable in the Federation Council we also tried to consider what in particular awaits Russian-American relations under the new US Administration. The conversation was very substantive and lively and the range of opinions was very, very broad. At any rate, in that we differed favourably from the interparty consensus which has now taken shape in American Congress with regard to relations with Russia. However, the positions of Russian experts and politicians were not on opposite planes ("we should - we shouldn't") but rather at different points on a scale from scepticism to optimism. Some people believed in the rapid improvement of the climate on the bilateral track while others doubted this, but not a single person denied that this would be useful for Russia, the United States, and the whole world. And this confirmed me yet again in a thought which I also voiced at the roundtable. The hope, the cautious optimism, and the reserved - but unconcealed - expectations with which people in Russia took Trump's victory have buried the thesis, very popular in certain expert circles, that anti-Americanism is allegedly being deliberately hyped in Russia for utilitarian purposes - to divert the population from domestic problems and to blame America for everything. The applause of the "patriotic" factions in the State Duma (not very appropriate, in my view, but highly characteristic) following the announcement of Donald Trump's victory showed that literally everyone was tired of confrontation. But how will it all turn out in real practice? In analysing what may notionally be called "Trumpism" as an as yet little-studied phenomenon, we can nonetheless draw some conclusions on the basis, inter alia, of the assessments voiced by experts. Above all Donald Trump's victory is not an exceptional but an entirely consistent phenomenon which should be explained on the basis of a study of processes within the system itself. In particular of a study of the risks, challenges, and internal contradictions that have accumulated in the system in literally the past few years when globalization has perhaps ceased to be the main driver of world processes, new centres of power have grown stronger, the gulf between the poor and the rich has widened, and so forth. Trump is the expression of the demand of an influential section of the elites for a turn towards domestic policy. It is domestic policy that will set the agenda and the direction of foreign policy efforts. And the more extensive the domestic problems of America itself may look (and there are quite a few of these problems), the tougher the new team will be in operating outside - no one should have the slightest doubt about that. When necessary it will forge ahead regardless of the opinion of the international community and of legal norms. From the very first assessments we may conclude that the new "shift" in the White House sees problems, first, in China's strengthening economic leadership, which is viewed as a direct challenge to America. Second, the threat from international terrorism also looks obvious. But, once again, as it reflects on American interests - that is in those regions and spheres where there is a direct threat to those interests, in particular in the Near East. Third, there has been a marked decline in the profitability and global role of multinational corporations and mechanisms. So among the first actions of the Trump Administration was an order on the United States' official withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he called "a potential disaster for our country," with the next subject for his close attention being the North American Free Trade Agreement. As regards Russia, the potential opportunities and risks can be predicted on the basis of precisely these assumed approaches by Washington towards international affairs. In particular, attempts to use Russia in the United States' "games" against third countries are entirely to be expected. If for the anti-Russian consensus in Congress our country is a priority target today, for Trump this is most likely not the case. It looks as though he sees no particular grounds for confrontation with Russia, seeing this as a mistake by the previous Administration and the "professional" Russophobes on the Capitol. To avoid our role in Russian-American relations being reduced to a quest for ways of "fitting" us into servicing some of the United States' own interests, we ourselves must offer a counter-agenda which would accord with our objectives but would also be of interest to America. I believe that the attempt, which has angered many people in Europe, to link the subject of lifting the sanctions against Russia to nuclear disarmament in actual fact simply makes clear that for Trump personally this subject is indeed important (and to all appearances far more so than the subject of Ukraine or Crimea). So it is important to formulate some ideas in the sphere of arms control and disarmament and security as a whole, including the topic of cyber security, which has been such a painful one for Americans recently. Although in my view personally it is currently far more urgent to agree on some steps to reduce the risk of a military clash between our countries in regional conflicts and on reciprocal commitments by Russia and the United States in the event of a conflict with third countries. Another topic is of course economic cooperation, which as of today obviously does not accord with the two countries' potentials. In that sense the appearance at the head of the State Department of the pragmatist Rex Tillerson, with his background in the American oil industry, in my view opens up quite good prospects for building up the volume of cooperation. Fundamental to this is the restoration of the infrastructure of bilateral relations, if not in the volume in which it existed prior to 2014 (in particular in the high format of the presidential commission consisting of nearly 20 sectoral working groups) then at least in some spheres and on some hot topics, like countering terrorism. In that sense it also seems extremely important to resume full-scale interparliamentary dialogue with our American counterparts, for which we are undoubtedly ready, while being aware that it will not be easy. But a way out of the present impasse of sanctions and confrontations can only be found through direct and frank communication. I am very much counting on talking with my counterparts from t e American Senate within the framework of the traditional Munich conference on security in two weeks' time, to which representatives of both sides have been invited. It is time to start working together.

 

Izvestia

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