May 22, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6937

Russia, Like Everybody Else, Cannot Figure Out Trump

May 22, 2017
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 6937

While the Washington beltway cauldron bubbles over the question of whether Donald Trump made himself a political hostage to Russia in return for economic or political favors, the article by political commentator Sergey Strokan (who is also an essayist and poet) that appeared in Kommersant and titled "Who Is Mr. Trump" shows that for the Russian "controllers" as well, Trump remains a cipher. As opposed to the unknown Vladimir Putin  of 2000 who quickly established a direction and style Donald Trump and his administration remain a pastiche of different and sometimes opposing orientations as he navigates the difficult transition phase between candidate Trump and President Trump. Strokan believes that the uncertainty about Trump's direction may last his entire administration.

Strokan's article[1] follows below:

Sergey Strokan (Source:

"The telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump that took place soon after the 45th U.S. president's first 100 days were discussed globally, will trigger a new spike of discussions about what is the policy of extravagant billionaire, who occupied the Oval Office against the Washington establishment's will.

"The question 'Who is Mr. Putin?' asked in 2000 by the Philadelphia Inquirer journalist seeking to understand the person who replaced Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin, may now be suitably reformulated to 'Who is Mr. Trump?' to match American realities: This is especially true as Donald Trump turned out to an equally surprising figure on the global political scene as Vladimir Putin had been in his time.

"'For Donald Trump, who had no work experience whatsoever in government organizations, the period of adaptation to the world of bureaucracy is particularly long and painful. Trump is still undergoing a conceptual adjustment from the presidential campaign, where he could say and promise anything, to working as president, where he is shackled by the decades-long bureaucratic and ideological obstacles', as Anton Fedyashin, a Washington-based professor of history at the American University, explained to me.

"What remains for Donald Trump in his new role is 'to experiment within permissible limits'. This experimentation, carried out with an eye toward special interest groups, senior party figures and business leaders, is the cause of endless, seemingly illogical and contradictory policy improvisations and zig zags by the new U.S President.

"It is no wonder that any attempt to compare Donald Trump with any of his predecessors – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, or President Obama, whose legacy he promised to dismantle (but so far he  has proved unsuccessful) -- would be speculative. Separate circumstantial similarities with previous presidents should not mislead us and distract from the principal conclusion: President Donald Trump does not have and is unlikely to obtain his own style of governing. His policy will be patched together from a bizarre combination of Reagan's, Bush's, Obama's and other bits and pieces.

"Donald Trump is the first modern American president whose style of governing can be defined as political postmodernism.

"Regarding foreign policy, which understandably concerns us the most, the developing situation in Washington is unique. None of the most sophisticated experts and insiders can say with confidence, who currently shapes the White House's international agenda.

"There are a dozen ways of answering: Donald Trump himself, his narrow circle (the family), political confidantes (éminence grises) in the White House, the National Security Council, the Republican congressional heavyweights, the State Department, the Pentagon, the heads of the intelligence community, or all of them put together, engaged in a tug-of-war. And this list is incomplete without Vice President Mike Pence who is capable of playing an independent role.

"So, although the answer to the question 'Who is Mr. Putin?' was received very quickly, we may never find out 'Who is Mr. Trump'."


[1], May 3, 2017.

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