Trump, Russia and Novorossiya

30.01.2017

We must not fool ourselves and think that the new American President Trump will be a real friend of Russia. He will work to "make America great again", and that contradicts any wishes of substantially better relations with Russia. Just look at Trump’s choices of ministers and advisers and what they are saying, so far, regarding Russia.

No, the only way for Russia to get something out of the new president of the US is to stand firm and show that it will be too costly for anyone to try to threaten vital Russian security interests: Syria, Serbia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and most importantly in former Ukraine, at least in Novorossiya and Malorossiya. It is very possible that USA will try to make Russia choose between better relations with the West or close ties with China. The alliance between Russia and China is a strategic partnership. It is founded on common security interests and a common enemy. The USA under Trump will probably try to break this partnership by offering Russia to lift the sanctions and maybe also to accept the reunification of Crimea. But this is not a "grand goodwill offer" by Trump (if it ever comes), because Russia already has Crimea without the need of any American "approval", and because the sanctions have actually been beneficial for Russia by forcing Russia to develop national resources/alternatives and become more independent from the West. Of course, it becomes more interesting for Russia if Trump offers to accept former Ukraine as part of the Russian sphere of influence, but he will most probably not do that (at least not without some "price" in return).

Trump will probably "attack" China for economic reasons and by economical/political means, so he needs Russia to be at least neutral when that happens. To bring jobs back to the USA, Trump has to deal with the "Chinese problem" in one way or another, and this opens an opportunity for Russia - an opportunity that should be exploited, but not to the extent of betraying the strategic partnership with China.

So Russia must get the most out of Trump without giving any real backing to an American move against her strategic partner. At the same time, we must remember that Chinese support for Russia, although it is important, has been considerably less than it could have been. The Chinese have always looked at their own interests first which this is only natural, and Russia must do the same. 

Of course, international politics and relations should be built upon mutual trust, respect, and understanding, but this is not so and it has never been so. They are built on force, deceit and threats - this is our reality.

The USA/China quarrel is economic in the first place and geopolitical/military in the second. This is where the Russian opportunity lies: the first point does not affect Russia or Russia-China relations, so there Russia can be "neutral" without "abandoning" China. China will need Russian energy resources even if some jobs return from China to the USA (and USA cannot take back too many jobs because American companies don´t want to pay the higher wages demanded at home). The second point (geopolitical) is more important for both Russia and China: US-Taiwan relations and the South China Sea are vital for China, but not for Trump, so Russia can support 

China there (in exchange for Chinese support regarding Novorossiya and Malorossiya), without upsetting Trump too much.

 

Taiwan is an issue that has great symbolic value for China and it is very sensitive for them - just as Novorossiya should be for Russia.

For Russia though, Taiwan has no importance. For USA, Taiwan likewise has an importance that is only symbolic and as a tool to pressure China. The same is true for the South China Sea. Russia, as the least directly involved great power in this region, can actually act as a mediator here. This way, Russia can get Chinese support and American concessions where it really matters - in Novorossiya and Malorossiya, without betraying China and without "discouraging" the US from its new "attitude" towards her. This will require a good political "balancing act", which I think that President Putin can deliver.