By: Matthew Kwasiborski, European Institutes Director at The Fund for American Studies
Last week, the American people took the greatest gamble in the history of the modern world. The American people elected real estate developer, casino mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. President-elect Trump has never held political office or worked as a public servant. His career has been built upon business risk with many great victories and many costly failures. And over 60M Americans are betting Mr. Trump can ‘Make America Great Again.’
Mr. Trump’s unpredictable behavior led to his election as the next US President, a behavior that has the entire world on edge, especially Ukraine. Mr. Trump has virtually no close relationships with anyone in the Washington, DC political establishment yet alone any close ties to the foreign policy experts. Therefore, all we can go upon are his remarks about Ukraine and Russia. And while the odds are not in Ukraine’s favor, there is some glimmer of hope that Mr. Trump will support Ukraine in its quest to become a fully functioning free market and democratic country.
The speculation that Mr. Trump had direct relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to be investigated. The reports of his fascination of building hotels in Russia date back to the Soviet Union; in 2008, his son, Donald Jr. stated, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our (Trump Corporation) assets.” And according to the recent Dworkin Report on 10 November 2016 Trump has close to 250 registered businesses in Russia. Considering the fact that his own campaign included shady American businessman Carter Page who in July gave a blistering criticism of the US’s policy towards Russia; scorned former general Michael Flynn, seen sitting next to Putin at the RT 10th anniversary gala in 2015, and the soulless Paul Manafort (political consultant to disgraced former Ukraine President Yanukovich), only gives tremendous support to this speculation. And let’s not forget Mr. Trump’s evaluation of Putin as an “A” leader or calling on the Russians to cyber attack Hillary Clinton’s email servers. When questioned about Crimea, Mr. Trump seemed to take the pro-Russian view that even the Crimeans wanted to be a part of Russia. A budding friendship between Mr. Trump and Ukraine seems far from reality.
Since Mr. Trump has no real close friendships within the Republican establishment in Washington DC, no one can accurately predict Mr. Trump’s feelings about Ukraine. There are no experts who can leak any speculation of his policies to journalists. However, we have to speculate based upon the facts we know. We know that Mr. Trump considers himself the “greatest” dealmaker of all time. And when you make deals, you need to be offered something of value in return. So, the question needs to be asked, what can Russia offer the United States?
A Newsweek article published on 3 November 2016 was titled, ‘Why Does Putin Fear a Clinton White House?’ Much to my surprise it did not detail Ms. Clinton’s experience or stories of her interactions dealing with Putin. The article detailed some cold hard facts for Putin in which he cannot be feeling so secure even with Mr. Trump. The United States has been the world’s number one producer of oil since April 2014. The US exported crude oil for the first time in four decades. And for the first time since the 1950s the US exported more liquefied natural gas than was imported. The natural gas exports will continue to rise in the coming years. Combined with Mr. Trump desire to bring American jobs back and blaming climate change on a Chinese hoax, these facts and his (misguided belief) will enable Mr. Trump to negotiate from a position of strength with Putin. Where this could very well benefit Ukraine is Mr. Trump offering to export American natural gas and crude oil to Ukraine at a discount leaving Putin feeling like a naked school boy running around Siberia in the middle of a blizzard. In fact, the US is already assisting Ukraine in purchasing natural gas from other sources so Ukraine’s reliance on Russian gas seems to have passed on like the Soviet Union.
What we can expect in the coming weeks is exactly what the Surkov emails revealed, efforts to de-stabilize Ukraine politically during the US transition from Obama to Trump and Trump’s first few months in office. Putin, while maintaining a positive posture towards Mr. Trump, will no doubt test the newly elected US President with his cavalier adventures in Ukraine and Syria while forging stronger ties with Turkey and Lebanon.
As reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty there is one pressing issue for the Ukrainians to pay strict attention to when it comes to Mr. Trump. It is Executive Order 13660. President Obama stated, “On March 6, 2014, by Executive Order 13660, I declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of persons that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.” Executive Order 13660 was first enacted by President Obama on 2 March 2014 followed by three additional Executive Orders also enacted in 2014. If Mr. Trump allows EO 13660 to expire in March 2017 it would effectively recognize the annexation of Crimea, and that the actions of the Russian government are not a direct threat to the peace, security or sovereignty of Ukraine as stated in EO 13661. It is highly unlikely Mr. Trump would allow it to expire because this would cause the unraveling of the additional executive orders issued after EO 13660. The potential expiration of EO 13660 could effectively put US national security and foreign policy at risk while revealing Mr. Trump’s intentions to the Russian President.
Even with the public praise Mr. Trump has heaped on the Russian President, the long-term relations between the US and Russia are truly unpredictable. Putin has seized the geopolitical momentum through his unpredictability and the lame duck and concessional Obama administration. However, now Putin will be matched up with someone who is as unpredictable as he, except with a larger, more advanced military, superior technology. Combining this with the cold facts of the US’s rising oil and natural gas producing industries begs the question, what can Russia actually offer the America? What could Mr. Trump possibly want in return?
And since Russia has failed to diversify its economy much beyond oil and natural gas, Putin doesn’t have much to offer Mr. Trump in return economically since vodka won’t entice the tea totaling American President-Elect. All of these facts make the odds in favor of Ukraine’s development under President Trump more likely than what appears on the surface.
The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations
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