The meteoric rise of eccentric billionaire Donald Trump to become the favorite Republican candidate in the U.S. presidential nomination race has catapulted the issue of disengagement with Russia back onto the political agenda. Washington’s policy of containment toward Russia has been pushed back to the forefront of the usually U.S.-centered campaign, with Trump positioning himself as a better partner for the Russian president than Barack Obama.
The biggest surprise came at a public meeting when Trump said, on the topic of potential relations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin: “I think we would get along very, very well.” He also rejected the neoconservative foreign-policy orthodoxy, putting to doubt the expediency of Washington’s involvement in the Middle East since the 2003 war in Iraq, and suggesting it would better suit American national interests to engage Putin’s Russia rather than alienate it and force it to search for allies elsewhere.
It was not the first time that Trump had made fine-tuned comments about Russia. In April last year, after what is seen in the West as the Russian takeover of Crimea, Trump, in an interview with Fox News, said that Putin deserved credit for strengthening the international prestige of his country. In June this year, Trump reminded that everyone in the U.S. agreed that everything should be done to avoid Russia and China coming together, yet Obama did just the opposite.
The American mainstream media mocks Trump. But since voters with a distinct pro-Republican leaning are still shopping for an acceptable candidate to run for the presidency, it does not make sense to dismiss the messages of Donald Trump as pure demagoguery. Nor should too much attention be devoted to his politically incorrect lambasting of Mexican migrants, which, while deserving the outrage with which it was met, does not constitute the essence of the alternative embodied in the figure of this flamboyant maverick.
Trump’s critical assessment of the U.S. administration’s foreign policy seem to resonate with Republican supporters. Still, what is the root cause of Trump’s appeal and current ratings? Edward Lozansky, president of the American University in Moscow (and member of the Republican Party), provided his insight into Trump’s phenomenon:
“Nobody expected that Trump can be a serious candidate… and then suddenly the public, which is supposed to make the ultimate decision, took a liking to him. Other politicians, they talk, talk, talk and promise many things but cannot deliver. Trump is the guy who can deliver. It is not easy to build a business empire worth some 9 billion dollars. He’s got property all over the place, he is well known. People are hungry for some new personality. But the Republican Party’s establishment does not want him. And what can happen, he can create a third party. We had a precedent with Ross Perot. Trump does not need fund-raising; he’s got his own money. It could be a very interesting phenomenon. The campaign was pretty boring. Now it is exciting.”
— Trump’s positive pronouncements about a dialogue with Russia have reopened the debate among the U.S. Democrats and Republicans on “who lost Russia.” Is this something that remains on the radar of U.S. politicians?
“At this point, Trump is the only candidate for nomination in the presidential race, both from the Republican and the Democratic side, who believes he can improve relations with Russia, which are now reaching a dangerous point. Almost every day we hear from an American general or a politician that Russia is the greatest threat to the United States. It might be said to score some political points. But the American people, I think, do not want confrontation with Russia. Trump claims he is the only one who can make a deal. Trump is a businessman, and business people, they want to make deals. He believes that he and Putin can make a deal.”
— Plenty of American political scene-watchers believe that Donald Trump will not secure nomination approval, let alone become the next U.S. president…
“If I were Trump or his advisor, I would definitely advise him to form a third party instead of fighting the Republican Party’s establishment. And then, who knows, a miracle could happen, and we could see not only a new face on the American political stage but also a dramatic improvement in U.S.-Russia relations.”
You do not need to be a fortuneteller to predict that Donald Trump will not last the course in this race. Yet Troika Report strongly believes that the legacy of his participation is here to stay. The final Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential race may well incorporate a good portion of the bold approach articulated by the daredevil outsider into their policy.
Moscow would dearly love to bet on this “Trump card” but his chances of making it to the top are unconvincing at best. Yet his surge to prominence serves as an indication that some Americans are seeking alternatives so desperately that they can forgive the man for his boisterous claim to become the “greatest jobs president that God ever created” and make America “great again.”