Will Russian interests get ‘Trump’ed?

Donald Trump has emerged out of the blue as a true alternative to the mainstream candidates.

Donald Trump has emerged out of the blue as a true alternative to the mainstream candidates.

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Vladimir Mikheev, Foreign affairs analyst, is monitoring the U.S election campaign with apprehension and cautious optimism. He sees Donald Trump as a true alternative to other mainstream candidates in the running, and one whose attitudes toward Russia and NATO make him an attractive proposition for Russia; with certain caveats.

For the United States, with its stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and $19 trillion national debt; quite enough to derail global finances if the bubble bursts; the choice of who will emerge to lead the nation is of vital importance.

Among candidates currently seeking to secure their party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency, there is nobody more divisive and controversial than Donald Trump. But controversy aside, what reasons are there for the billionaire businessman to be given a chance to adjust his homeland to modern times and the best national interests?

Soothing anger is not good enough

Trump has emerged out of the blue as a real alternative to the mainstream candidates who offer more or less the same promises of sustaining U.S. exceptionality and continuing to promote the American dream despite the current dire financial circumstances.

This is nothing close to correction of the internal and foreign policies that have caused “so much anger out there in America,” as David Maraniss and Robert Samuels wrote in The Washington Post on March 17.

Maraniss and Samuels wrote of the “Anger at Wall Street… Anger at Muslims… Anger at trade deals… Anger at Washington... Anger at police shootings of young black men… Anger at President Obama… Anger at Republican obstructionists... Anger about political correctness... Anger about the role of big money in campaigns… Anger about the poisoned water of Flint, Michigan… Anger about deportations... Anger about undocumented immigrants... Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected... Anger about a lost way of life… Specific anger and undefined anger, and even anger about anger...”

Trump, as an eccentric maverick, is positioning himself, whether with solid justification or not, as the solution, as the recipe to cure the anger. This is the core of his appeal. His popularity ratings simply reflect the search for a down-to-earth messiah.

Neither isolationist, nor interventionist

The easiest way to dismiss praise from a Russian citizen is to attribute it to Trump’s claims about his ability to handle Putin and engage him in a meaningful dialogue. It sounds strangely familiar, akin to the early Barack Obama’s intentions to “reset” relations with Russia.

However, I would soft-pedal expectations of a “reset” during a possible Trump presidency. After all, he would only be U.S. president, and that does not automatically give him the necessary leverage to shape foreign policy and bring in line all the existing centres of power within the political and business class of America. I would not count on Trump as the architect of a new “détente.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s treatment of NATO as a costly enterprise with little benefit to the U.S. (“We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore”) is a welcome change of tune. Still, it is far from certain that if in office, he would significantly lower U.S. involvement and financial contributions to NATO, as he now says.

What is more likely is that, under his leadership, relations with NATO could become more predictable. “Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially, the third world war with Russia?” asked Trump, clearly addressing the question to Washington’s European allies. Good question.

Living in the former “evil empire,” as it was once defined by Ronald Reagan, makes me well aware that my compatriots are apprehensive of the Western military machine, which has gradually expanded eastward to the borders of Russia in the past decades. Trump’s reassessment of the value of the trans-Atlantic military alliance is one step closer to what many in Russia would like to hear: admittance that NATO is a Cold War relic.

The heresies of Mr. Iconoclast

Politics are as much about policy-making as about perceptions. The personality of the White House’s principal occupant relates directly to what other nations expect from him (or her) and to others’ readiness to engage with the U.S. administration. Trump remains, so far, an American riddle. Why?

Trump is part and parcel of the American privileged class. The 24-karat-gold bathroom fixtures on board his personal airplane, nicknamed “Trump Force One,” attest to his being a part of the elite establishment. Yet he is tapping into the anti-establishment resentment of the grass roots. This makes him a populist, maybe in the good sense of the word.

But Trump is a dangerous heretic by Russian standards. He brashly proposes the introduction of a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S, and brazenly attacks Mexicans and other Latin American migrants.

Such an openly racist and bigoted position would never be accepted in Russia. With a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population, Russia is a composite nation and not only a Christian but an Islamic country too. We cannot afford intolerance and even verbal abuse of this kind. The fact that white supremacist groups have backed Trump is a no less worrisome development.

Will the true alternative please stand up?

Against these worrying particulars of Trump’s character and abrasive policies he subscribes to, the question “Is Trump one of us?” looks silly at best, but not altogether inappropriate.

Remember conservative commentator Pat Buchanan’s column titled “Is Putin one of us?” (Dec. 17, 2013) which roused suspicion that he was a covert fan of the Russian president? Buchanan later backed off and restored his truly old-school credentials. And yet, Buchanan’s doubts about Putin were not groundless.

Trump is definitely not “one of us,” and most likely a tough cookie to deal with should he become number one in Washington, D.C.

However, it is clear from reading the reactions of many internet users to articles about the candidates for the forthcoming presidential elections that many Americans are jaded and tired of the dominance of U.S. politics by the Bush and Clinton clans over the last 25 years, with many commentators asking: But what are the alternatives for us right now?

Is the U.S. ready for Trump-styled ‘perestroika’?

It boils down to the conclusion that Trump is The Alternative. Common wisdom rightly claims that not all alternatives offer a better future than the previous routine arrangements with the old guard in command.

There is a fair chance that America might change for the better under the billionaire businessman, with Trump, possibly, bringing into U.S. government bodies professionals with no links either to the "missionaries" from the Democratic camp or the "neoconservatives" from the Republican side.

The question is whether or not Americans are prepared to embark upon an American version of ‘perestroika’ whose end results would be far from a foregone conclusion.

The opinion of the writer may not necessarily reflect the position of RIR or its staff.

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