By Paul Goble
Russian analysts are currently split into three distinct groups on the question of whether “a strategic alliance” will be formed between Vladimir Putin and incoming US President Donald Trump and thus define the direction of the world for at least the next four years, according to Regnum commentator Yury Baranchik.
According to the first of these, which is held most commonly among Russian liberals, “Trump’s pre-election rhetoric was no more than a diversion and that as president he will return to the Obama-Clinton line” and that the new president will focus more on domestic matters, leaving Russia to “the students of Reagan” (regnum.ru/news/polit/2226970.html).
If this view turns out to be true, Baranchik says, Trump will have little room for political maneuver. But the Regnum commentator says that in his view, “Trump will not depart from his own line since this would mean his rapid political death” not only because it would betray his followers but because it would violate his psychology.
Consequently, this first view most likely will not prove to be accurate.
The second school argues that after becoming president, Trump will “occupy a position of political realism and enter into a tough trading period with Russia concerning the entire spectrum of world geopolitics.” Each side will have to yield something the other wants in order to get or retain what it wants more.
Baranchik says this scenario is more justified than the first but that it suffers from two serious problems. On the one hand, “Trump has too complicated a situation inside his own country to get involved in a war on two fronts.” That is he needs to get a win quickly on one in order to be in a position to do something on the other.
Getting such an agreement with Putin quickly is possible but only if his demands for an equal trade are not pressed too far, the commentator argues.
And on the other hand, Baranchik continues, unlike the so-called “Kissinger plan” which requires Putin to make all the concessions, Trump has to come up with one that offers some American concessions on things Putin cares about if he is to get an agreement quickly and easily and that Putin can’t get simply by awaiting the course of events.
And then there is the third set of views, one few Russians currently hold although Baranchik for his part says he is among them. This third scenario starts from the proposition that “Putin and Trump have common geopolitical and personal enemies who want to remove both of them from power.”
“Both presidents have very similar domestic political and economic problems, including an intra-power frond and the necessity for boosting the standard of living” in ways people can feel, the Regnum commentator says. They can’t afford slow negotiations about the future because that means “to lose time, resources, public impact and allies.”
“Therefore,” the commentator argues, “the most optimal variant and especially for Trump consists not [of a global trade of positions] but a global agreement including the restoration of a Russian zone of influence on the post-Soviet space except for the Baltic countries.” [Stress added.]
Trump won’t get a lot in exchange, and his critics in the mainstream media in the US will attack him for selling out to Putin and sacrificing all the achievements of the West “which it got from the collapse of the USSR as part of their ongoing effort to strip him of legitimacy and weaken his position.
But in this situation, Baranchik argues, “Trump needs to give his voters another truth.” That alternative version of reality would be that now American boys won’t have to fight “god knows where for what commercial interests” and that “global stability is much better than a world war.”
The main reason this third scenario is the most likely, Baranchik says, is that Trump doesn’t have much time – only three years until his reelection campaign will absorb all of his time. And that means that he needs to “agree with Putin as fast as possible on as many issues as possible about a new world order.”
In short, the analyst says, he must conclude “a Putin-Trump pact and then, presenting his accord with Putin as his first victory as president, take up the cleansing of the Augean stables in the US. For that, he will need the support of the people.” Among those who share this view is a Russian blogger whose post is at cont.ws/@glavbushka/482763.
Under existing circumstances, Putin doesn’t need to trade anything meaningful to get Trump’s agreement. Indeed, Baranchik suggests it would not only be undignified but “simply stupid.” There is no “Kissinger plan” and the Trump and Putin people have been talking intensively in Moscow.
Summing up, Baranchik says that what Russia and Putin need from the US and Trump is the same thing the US and Trump need from them: a joint agreement to end “the legacy of the Saudis and the Clintons.” That task is “the most general and important” of those standing before Putin and Trump. Achieving progress is the best way to avoid a broader war.
Given some of the statements Trump has made in recent days – his suggestion that NATO is a relic of the past and that the EU should fall apart – and some of his already demonstrated approaches to decision making, one can understand why at least some in Moscow share Baranchik’s views. Just how many do remains to be seen but should become obvious soon.