Russian Parliament calls for "preparing for the worst" in relationship with Trump
Donald Trump’s words about the necessity of returning the Crimea to Ukraine and his position on arms reduction treaty have alerted the leaders of the State Duma factions. However, Moscow is still willing to improve the relations.
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s speech, which he delivered in the State Duma during a round table devoted to the prospects of Russian-American relations on February 28, Russia and the US “have the opportunity to align their relationship as a minimum, and as a maximum, to bring them back on the upward trajectory.” However, Ryabkov also said that Russia has no ‘unduly high expectations’. Other participants in the discussion agreed that the policy of US President Donald Trump should be treated with caution.
It’s all Obama’s fault
Ryabkov blamed former US president Barack Obama for the crisis in relations between the countries. According to him, “the basis for cooperation” between the two countries was destroyed by the previous US president, when the “odious law named after Magnitsky” was adopted in the US in December 2012; the US government “launched a hunt for Russian citizens” and “tried to discredit the Olympics”, Ryabkov added.
After the change of power in Ukraine in 2014, the American side drastically limited the interaction with Russia, broke off the parliamentary contacts, and halted the work of the Presidential Commission, Ryabkov continued. In addition, following the aforementioned events in Ukraine, the US “began to tighten up the Pentagon and NATO’s potential” to the Russian borders, “Obama and his people began calling Baltic States and Poland the frontline States,” Ryabkov said. According to the deputy minister, the return of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko to Russia by the US would be a significant step to improve the bilateral relations.
“The relationship began to sour as early as in 2011; they were derailed even before the annexation of Crimea, but the Crimean events marked a qualitative change, opening a period of confrontation. Before that, Russia and the United States had a bad partnership and a growing tension; after the Crimean events, however, the confrontation between the two countries became a reality,” Director of the Moscow Carnegie Center Dmitry Trenin recalled in conversation with RBC.
“Preparing for the worst”
After Donald Trump was elected president, there was hope that the relations could improve, Ryabkov said. According to him, Moscow closely monitors the statements of US President and follows his Twitter account. However, Chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky, a moderator of the session, noted that there has been only positive ‘rhetoric’ on the part of Trump so far, but no specific actions aimed at improving the relations.
In his speech, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called Trump ‘a product of his era’, whose representatives have always been set to a hard line against Russia. According to Zyuganov, Trump is beginning to partially return to the policy pursued by the former US management. The communist leader said that Trump has already started to retreat from his positions and there are Obama’s tones to his phraseology. He also drew attention to the fact that the new US president promised to increase the US defense budget by more than $ 50 billion. This, by Zyuganov’s assessment, shows that “many problems will be solved the way they have always been solved.”
Leader of A Just Russia Party Sergey Mironov noted that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership does not mean the rejection of the United States’ hegemony. According to him, the US approach to foreign policy may tighten under Trump. Mironov believes that businessman Trump will actively use his experience of doing business, so in the relationship and during negotiations he would speculate for the rise, impose his conditions, and drive a hard bargain. According to Mironov, Trump's words about the need to return the Crimea to Ukraine should not be considered a mere declaration, but an outline of his policy. “We should hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” Mironov concluded.
November 9 last year, when Trump was elected president, State Duma deputies applauded.
Scientific Advisor of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies Sergey Rogov noted that there was a tough anti-Russian bipartisan consensus in the United States. He also called attention to Trump's harsh rhetoric concerning two agreements, fundamental for relations between Russia and the US, namely Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) and Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). In an interview with Reuters of February 24, President Trump complained about the deployment of cruise missiles by Russia in violation of the INF Treaty. “It is very important for me,” Trump said.
Ryabkov said that Moscow considers the New START Treaty a useful tool, “which actually enhances the security.” According to Deputy Foreign Minister, Russia and the United States could effectively cooperate in the fight against terrorism.
“The official position, as I understand it, is that there are no illusions, nor there have ever been [in connection with Trump’s election], but the window for cooperation remains open in some areas; at the same time, Moscow is ready to different scenarios,” Trenin commented on the deputy minister’s speech.