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memri
December 6, 2016 No.
6701

Renowned Russian Scholar Valery Solovei: 'The New American Administration Will React From A Position Of Strength, And We Can Never Win In This Competition'

On November 30, 2016, Russia's daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets published an interview on U.S.-Russia relations with one of the most influential and highly quoted intellectuals, Professor Valery Solovei. According to Solovei, who chairs the department of public relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University), the new Trump administration will respond from a position of strength, and Russian will never win in such competition. He also added that the new American administration can tear Russia's economy into shreds within 2-3 years.

Below are excerpts from Solovei's interview with Mk.ru:[1]


Valery Solovei (Source: znak.com)

'It Must Be Said That Presently The U.S. Establishment Shares A Broad Anti-Russia Consensus That Is Non-Partisan In Character

"[Russian President] Vladimir Putin talked today about his recent telephone conversation with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, and expressed hope for a correction in  Russian-American relations. How justified are [Putin's hopes]  Is Trump really 'ours'? ... The Russian ruling elite's euphoria over Trump's victory was even higher than that at Trump headquarters – says Valery Solovei – For example, I know that at some government offices, when the results of U.S. elections were announced, they opened champagne and smoked cigars.

"But now, naturally, the euphoria has subsided. First, among people who understand something about foreign policy, and how the U.S. governmental mechanism is built. Trump is not that unpredictable as he is often depicted. To rule successfully he must rule in accord with his own party. Now, by the way, a unique situation has developed in the U.S.: the Republicans control both houses of Congress, and they are also in charge in the majority of states. Hence, Trump must respect the balance of forces, interests and views developed in the party establishment which [in turn] forms part of a common American establishment. And Trump's first nominations attest to a realistic and very balanced approach.

"It is noteworthy that these personnel decisions have earned encouragement not only from the Republicans, but from Democrats as well. It must be said that presently the American establishment shares a broad anti-Russia consensus that is non-partisan in character. All regard Russia as a former great power in a state of long and irreversible decline. But which tries, in fits of despair, to revise the outcome of the Cold War. I emphasize: this opinion is shared by the entire U.S. establishment.

"Nevertheless, the Americans have several obvious interests for cooperating with Russia. Trump understands perfectly that his ability to solve the Syrian puzzle will be an important indicator of his foreign policy success.  And he does not set himself the goal – not publically, at least –of overthrowing Assad. Trump avers that fighting terrorism is the top priority. Therefore, there a certain foundation exists not only for coordination, but even for some joint actions.

"Of course, the Russian leadership secretly hopes to trade Syria for Ukraine. This means reaching agreement with the Americans on Syria by bargaining for an agreement that includes Ukraine in the Russian interest zone. And I can say that official Kiev is extremely scared of this– to the point of cramps.

'If We Do Not Reach An Agreement With The U.S., We Shall Find Ourselves In A Most Unpleasant Situation'

"It is not quite clear yet what will happen in this direction. But I'll return to the beginning of my speech: a Republican establishment exists, an American establishment exists that attaches importance to contain Russia's feeble revisionist efforts. Even if Trumps decides to conclude such a deal with Moscow, the establishment, most likely, will not allow its implementation.

"As for Crimea, this problem is in any case marginalized. Today it is clear to all. The US, like the EU, will never recognize Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. But de-facto the situation will remain the same.

There are several other problematic subjects in Russian-American relations which are unlikely to be solved with the advent of the Trump administration. For example, [there is] the "Magnitsky List" [of sanctioned Russian officials] or the case of the downed Malaysian "Boeing". Very soon the international commission investigating this catastrophe will release the list of the guilty. In Moscow they fear that the list will be very unpleasant for us.

"As soon as it appears, the damage suits from the families and relatives of the fallen will immediately follow and will most probably endanger Russian Federation property abroad. Russia, most likely, would prefer the package deal with America – to sit by the [negotiations] table and to solve all the problems. But I am sure that Americans will not go for it.

"That aside, another most serious conceptual problem exists, which few currently consider. The issue in question is that for the last two years Russia had demonstrated to the whole world that it places force in the very forefront. Meaning: you, Americans and Europeans, talk about values, but all this is hypocrisy, lies. You have no values: we applied pressure – you have retreated, without deciding to do anything.

"But Trump is not Obama. In the foreign policy domain, the Obama administration was the weakest postwar American administration. Trump cannot allow himself such weakness. Therefore, though the situation opens some new possibilities before us, it carries much larger risks. The new American administration will react from a position of strength, and we can never win in this competition. The Soviet Union had lost it, and Russia is much weaker than the Soviet Union. Our  [US vis a vis Russia] potentials are grossly disproportionate, have no illusions about it.

"This means that all depends on our readiness to evaluate the situation realistically and to compromise. If we do not reach an agreement with the U.S., we shall find ourselves in a most unpleasant situation. There are many tools in their arsenal that allow [them] to drive us into a corner. The economic and financial ones will suffice: within 2-3 years, Russia's economy will be torn to shreds."

 

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[1] Mk.ru, November 30, 2016. The interview was performed by Russian journalist Andrei Kamakin.