The US-Russian relationship under Trump will mainly focus on reducing risks of collision, taking confidence-building measures, and engaging in other forms of war avoidance. Improved relations can only result from a change in the basic attitude of either of the two countries toward the other.
The risk of a confrontation has increased since Friday, but, paradoxically, greater American involvement in Syria may also bring about closer US-Russian co-operation there, leading eventually to a political settlement and an end to the bloody six-year civil war.
Russians’ fondness for Donald Trump doesn’t mean that anti-American sentiment has suddenly disappeared in Russia. But even though Trump’s election is unlikely to reverse decades of mistrust, his statements about improving relations with Russia have already had an impact on Russians’ attitudes toward the United States.
The Reykjavik summit from thirty years ago shows what can be done when two leaders, whose states are supposedly implacable enemies, take responsibility and act to enhance the world’s strategic stability and safety.
Trump’s arrival in the White House has put the worsening U.S.-Russian confrontation on hold, for now.
Even if Moscow wisely avoids a bid for the mediator role in South Asia, behind the scenes it could facilitate dialogue between India and Pakistan on bilateral issues.
If Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are able to find a common language of respective national interests, then in spite of the fundamental differences and the unavoidable rivalry, Russian-US adversity may become more manageable. Under the current circumstances, one could call this an achievement.
Dmitri Trenin speaks to the International Relations Committee of the House of Lords on the transformations of power and new developments in the whole Middle East region.
Today Russia and the West perceive each other as political opponents, in fact. And one should treat one’s opponent very seriously. After all, if you don’t take your adversary very seriously, it might lead to underestimating your opposing side’s potential and overestimating your own capabilities.
Both China and Russia are led by leaders acting out of the national interest, which should mean that even if President Xi or President Putin will not be able to resolve their differences with President Trump, they will at least speak the same language.