Many have tried to reset relations with Russia. Barack Obama was caught telling Putin he would change his politics versus Russia after the elections. For years, Germany tried to separate politics from business and made great deals with Putin’s Russia. Besides, France or Netherlands did the same. Even Donald Tusk violating all principles of diplomacy tried to get along with Russian leader and went to Kremlin during the end of Russian election campaign. Assuming that new, republican administration of Trump doesn’t know about it is a simple ignorance.
Unquestionably, normalisation of relations with Moscow would be favourable for the West. It would eliminate one of the potential sources of conflicts. Such were the relations with Russia of Boris Yeltsin. Instead of enhancing conflicts, he tried to make business. Obviously, for the devastated post-soviet economy it was a dangerous path, since it could lead to dependence of the western economy powers. On the other hand, it turned Russia into a predictably and friendly country. Yet, such Russia disappeared 31 December 1999 when Yeltsin gave power over to Putin. The aim of this new leader is to induce chaos and permanent crisis in relations with NATO countries and western neighbours. This is the only way for Russia to stay an important player on the global scale.
Kremlin hasn’t got many aces these days. It hasn’t got modern, innovative economy. It doesn’t invest the huge money earned on ore exploitation in development of important-for-the-future branches of industry, instead it spends it on consumption. This way the authorities buy social peace. Russia is the biggest country in the world, it cannot feed itself, though. The only thing Russia can use today is spreading fear and stirring up crises among its competition. This is the goal of both: attacking the Crimea and Donbass, and of engagement in the war in Syria, which caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes and seek refuge in Europe. Such is also the aim of the cybernetic war led by Russia for at least couple of years. After all, those actions didn’t bring Russia any tangible benefits. All they did was to prove that Russia won’t hesitate using force.
When aggressive and unpredictable, Russia must be taken into consideration by the West who knows that the finger of the former KGB agent Putin lies on the button triggering nuclear weapon. If Putin abandoned violence, like since the first war in Chechnya, and started to respect human rights, he would become merely a leader of an unstable country which struggles with economic, demographic and cultural collapse.
The permanent conflict with the West (with the US as a leader) has let Putin keep his ruling for the past years. If the thread suddenly disappears, current policy of Kremlin would loose its validation. Therefore Moscow-Washington alliance doesn’t seem probable, because it’s hard to imagine what could be the conditions of such an alliance. And above all, they wouldn’t be acceptable to Putin.
It’s worth to mention that the rumour about an agreement between Putin and Trump is gladly spread by the Kremlin’s resident and by the European politicians who not so long ago did successful business with Putin themselves. Or they still do it, regardless the sanctions. For instance, Germany who tries to build next line of Nordstream or opened the Opal pipeline which runs along the Polish borders, for Gasprom, which directly interferes with our interests.
Russian intentions are obvious. Vision of agreement between Washington and Moscow is an attempt of inducing mistrust between Europe and America. Aversion of most of the European capitals towards Trump has more complicated reasons. On one hand, firm announcements concerning necessity of augmentation armament expenses causes anxiety in European countries. This would mean limitations in social benefits or increasing taxes and augmentation of defences budget. On the other hand, Trump’s winning sends a clear message that the wind of change present in the West may blow the arrogant and embarrassed European elites away. In such circumstances, the easiest way is to present new American president as some lunatic with urge for authority or as a traitor for whom no alliance has any meaning. Indeed, for such a person Putin would be an ideal partner.
As a matter of fact, Russian and American interests are currently so divergent that it rules out any possibility of a long-term strategical alliance. For the USA, liberalisation of trade is vital, and this would mean a collapse for the weak Russian economy. Americans also wish Ukrainian crisis to end as soon as possible. They would happily see it under European influence, which would move vision of the conflict in Europe away and free them from the necessity of increasing their military engagement in this part of the world. For Russia, regaining control over Donbass by Ukraine, even if keeping the autonomy of the region, would mean an obvious defeat. Moreover, Russia cannot have any significant part in potential economic conflict between China and the USA, since its economic potential is incomparable to any of the two powers.
Russian and American interests concerning the Middle East are also divergent. Americans want the conflict to end, which would stop the immigration wave spreading in Europe and would deprive terrorist Islamic organisations of their training and recruitment base. Only by supporting Bashar al-Assad, Russia maintains chaos which caused thousands of people leave their homes and makes any attempts of ending rules of the dictator, and thus establishing a new order in Syria, impossible. Therefore it is difficult to find any platform of agreement between Putin and Trump. For this to happen, Russia would have to end its aggressive politics and become a predictable partner. And this would mean a degradation for Putin. However, if in some miraculous way he decided to change his current politics, Trump would achieve something no one else could for the last century.
By: Mariusz Staniszewski