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On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump took the office as 45th U.S. president. RIAC members and experts comment on the vital domestic and foreign policy issues the U.S.A. is going to face in the next four years.

On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump took the office as 45th U.S. president. RIAC members and experts comment on the vital domestic and foreign policy issues the U.S.A. is going to face in the next four years.

Candidate Trump and President Trump

Aleksey Arbatov, Head of the Center for International Security of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAN), RIAC member

President Trump will significantly differ from Candidate Trump. First, one should not forget the role of Congress, which is in fact very big. What is more, there is not many of those with a positive attitude towards Russia. Considering the fact that the Republicans hold a majority in both Houses, Congress’s deterrent role will boil down to bringing Trump’s rhetoric in line with that of the party. Consequently, his exotic statements, promises and commitments are going to become more moderate. The Republican party has significantly changed since the 1960s and 1980s: it has become much more conservative and much less educated. Nevertheless, some party traditions have deep historical roots. The Republican foreign policy is said to have two sacred cows – missile defence and Israel. Trump seems to have a positive attitude towards Israel and is going to move forward with missile defence, which corresponds to the traditional party line.

Trump and National Debt

Evgeny Gavrilenkov, Matrix Capital partner, Professor at Higher School of Economics, RIAC member

Trump has announced a set of economic measures without saying anything about their implementation. At this point, the global economy is filled with risks. The U.S. national debt that might reach 107-108% in the upcoming years, will not reduce the economic growth stuck at 2% and deficit remaining at 3-4%. Such situation does not leave a lot of room to manoeuvre. It would be too risky to increase the interest rate as it would only exacerbate the deficit problem. In order for serious changes to happen, the country needs breakthrough innovations and a brand new economy sector. It is true that the unemployment has hit its lowest point, but all the measures involved were implemented in debt. With both national and corporate debt having grown significantly, any bank rate change would be too risky. Interest rates may be changed not only by Federal Reserve System’s decision but under external forces’ influence. It happened when China and Saudi Arabia were selling reserves, thus reducing the demand for U.S. dollars. 2017 is going to be a year of very serious economic uncertainty.

Trump and Fighting the Evil

Evgeny Buzhinsky, Chairman of PIR Center, RIAC member

I think that the U.S. policy in the Middle East is unlikely to see big changes, except for one. Trump is determined to fight against Islamic State. Trump and most of his team members do realise that Islamic State poses a real threat. Obama and Carter (Secretary of Defense, 2015-2017) clearly underestimated this threat. Here we are likely to witness some changes. I think that Trump is going to keep his word and will not interfere in the Middle Eastern affairs. He might change his attitude towards the key allies: Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Despite the fact, that the two are very wealthy countries and beneficial allies, they try to actively participate in the decision-making process and put spokes into the Administration’s wheels by supporting radical Islamists.

Trump’s team is taking it seriously. Mattis, the new defence secretary, is not ready to compromise on issues regarding Islamists. Other Administration representatives are hard on the issue as well. I think that the chances of Russia and the U.S.A. finding compromise on fighting IS are real.

Searching for Cyberguilty

Pavel Sharikov, Director of the Applied Research Center, RAS Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, RIAC expert

Russia and the U.S.A. have to reach common ground on cybersecurity issues and put it in writing. The process is getting yet more difficult with Russia being accused of committing cyberattacks. It is impossible to prove that Russia’s authorities are behind the attacks.  It would be logical for Russia to offer the U.S. assistance in cybercrime investigation. Still, one cannot deny that the attacks came from Russia’s territory or were committed by Russian citizens. Whatever the truth is, the attacks must be investigated and the ones in charge – prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Such step would contribute to restoring trust that was lost several years ago. It is in Russia’s interests to continue an active dialogue with Trump’s administration.

Personnel Perestroika

Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, RIAC member

Once, President, Trump will have to find interest in things he had no knowledge of before. He will need advice and expertise. Trump has changed top brass, which does not include professors or experts. That is why the tradition of forming American think-tanks will be preserved during Trump’s presidency. Many government officials go on to work for think-tanks, which is beneficial for both parties. Where else can they find people competent for work at the Administration’s middle level? There is no doubt that Brookings and other institutions are not in a favourable position: they will have to adapt to the new administration’s demands. All traditional institutions including the aforementioned Brookings, American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation have good chances to work for Trump’s administration. I do think that in the near future America will remain America.

Interviewed by Maria Smekalova, RIAC Website editor 

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
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