Obstacles to a US-Russia Detente

Here are two pieces of terrible news for anyone who was expecting, given the preconditions, a rapid reconciliation between the Kremlin and Washington: the resignation of General Michael Flynn, national security adviser and the closest man to Moscow from Donald Trump’s entourage, and the White House’s statement on Crimea (“[D]eescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea”).

After years of diplomatic and geopolitical tensions, Russia had been expecting, with Donald Trump’s victory, a new detente with the United States. Although General Flynn’s resignation represents a hard blow from that perspective, and a victory for the Russophobic neo-conservatives, it is likely that The Donald’s only aim is to create a position of negotiation with Putin. The chess game between the two leaders, who continue to speak sincerely about each other, has just begun.

Is Moscow Worried about Trump’s Behavior?

An interesting read about the unpredictability of Donald Trump’s strategy and the Kremlin’s growing concerns has been published in Foreign Policy: “Trump is positioning himself as the global leader of an anti-global movement that is anti-elite, anti-establishment, anti-liberal and nationalistic,” as Ivan Krastev and Steve Holmes have observed. “Now that Trump is in power, political elites in Moscow have stopped cheering. They recognize that Russia’s position has become abruptly and agonizingly complex.

“It’s true that Trump’s accession opens up the possibility of ‘normalizing’ Russia’s relations with the West, beginning with a reduction or even elimination of sanctions. It also validates many of Russia’s ideological criticisms of the liberal order. But Trump’s revolution is also ushering in a period of turmoil and uncertainty, including the likelihood of self-defeating trade wars. Still traumatized by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia’s present leadership has no appetite for global instability.”

They added, “The Kremlin is perfectly aware that Democrats want to use Russia to discredit and possibly impeach Trump, while Republican elites want to use Russia to deflate and discipline Trump.” According to Foreign Policy’s analysis, Moscow fears either Trump’s downfall, or that in order to stay in power and make peace with the Republicans, he could adopt a tough anti-Russia line.

The New York Times: Trump Is Right on Russia

According to the New York Times, Donald Trump has no choice and must stabilize relations with the Kremlin, scaling down ambitions of geopolitical hegemony in the U.S.: “There are many good reasons for the United States to reach conciliation with Moscow on issues from Eastern Europe to the Middle East. The real question will be if Washington can control its own desire for global hegemony enough to make that possible,” writes Anatol Lieven.

“Unlike China,” he stresses, “Russia is not an emerging peer competitor to the United States. Russia is a regional power struggling to retain a fragment of its former sphere of influence. Moreover, it should be a natural ally of the United States in the fight against Islamist extremism. A reduction of tension with Russia would allow the United States to concentrate on more important geopolitical issues.”

General Flynn’s Resignation and Internal Conflict

The resignation of Russophile Michael Flynn conveys the brutal infighting at the core of U.S. power from which emerges the key “Neocon” role, which will not allow Trump to reconcile so easily with Russia. According to Pepe Escobar, analyst for Asia Times and Sputnik International, the war between Trump and the Neocons is only just beginning. “The news of Flynn’s resignation has elicited a series of reactions,” he observes. “Positive from Iran. Mostly negative from Russia. Indifferent from China.”

“This is undoubtedly a victory for the American ‘deep state’ and the Neocons,” he affirms. “And I also interpret it as a tactical retreat. Flynn will be back, but in the shadows. The Democratic Neocon axis, propped up by the corporate media, is relentless. Fasten your safety belts. The internal war hasn’t even started.”* So will there be an actual “revolution” of U.S. foreign policy, or will The Donald also have to surrender and bow down to that establishment that he had promised to wipe out? It is too soon to judge the Trump administration’s actions in that sense, but the signs of internal strife are evident.

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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