Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Not-So-Simple Relations between Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America
ISHIGOOKA Ken / Journalist

February 7, 2017
Reports by US and British media outlets of late often impress me as taking a simplistic view of things—that their coverage is superficial and diminishing in quality. They have me wondering what the matter is with the US and British media.

Some cases in point are the biased coverages of the Brexit referendum of June 2016 and the US presidential election of October 2016. In both cases, the media persistently made erroneous reports based on mistaken assumptions.

One-dimensional reports also abound regarding my specialty, Russian affairs. Media stories have pointed the finger at President Vladimir Putin for all manner of things: the polonium poisoning case in Britain, the downing of a passenger plane in Ukraine, Russia’s purported willingness to use nuclear arms, the murder of a pro-democracy activist in Moscow, the alleged capital flight of presidential funds to Panama, the doping of Olympic athletes, and the alleged intervention into the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election. Incidentally, in none of these instances has the president’s “crimes” been fully established.

In the case of the US presidential election, Donald Trump’s praise of Putin led to reports that Putin had assisted Trump by using hackers to illegally meddle in the election.

There is no question that numerous hacker groups exist in Russia, causing problems across the globe, and some of them may well have close ties with the federal security apparatus. But even if these hackers were able to steal the US Democratic National Committee’s “classified documents” via the Internet, it seems implausible that they would then be able to sway US public opinion or electoral trends. If, in fact, the election results were rigged, I believe this would call for a rerun. If, on the other hand, the point is that hackers had uncovered a scandal within the DNC, it follows that the fault is not with the hackers but with the scandal itself, as Putin has suggested. He has also questioned whether American democracy is so fragile as to be undermined by mere hackers, asking with great irony, “Is America some kind of banana republic?”

What is most problematic is the fact that the majority of Russians neither trust nor support Trump. Very few in Russia believe that Trump is Putin’s puppet—a claim insinuated by Hillary Clinton. I suspect that the number of people who believe this claim is small in the United States as well.

Historically, Russia has often been said to get along better with the pragmatic Republican Party than with the ideological Democratic Party. Moreover, Trump and Putin both uphold similar nationalist values that put the interests of their respective countries above other interests. With Trump exclaiming “America first” and Putin declaring “Russia first,” it appears as though they adhere to the same philosophy.

From a geopolitical standpoint, though, many question whether the United States and Russia are capable of forging a genuinely good relationship. Given that the United States believes in universal values, whereas Russia sets store by geopolitically specific values, a fair number of intellectuals project that the two countries will eventually come at odds with each other.

Furthermore, successive US presidents have proclaimed the ideal of the United States as the world leader and a model to the world. This “city upon a hill” concept—that the United States shall be looked up to by all people—is one of the country’s founding principles. President Trump has remarked that the United States can no longer “be the policeman of the world” and that the United States will go its own way without intervening in the interests and values of other countries, but Russians have voiced their doubts about the veracity of these claims. In the words of Dmitri Trenin, an expert on international issues and the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, “Trump is unpredictable” and it “is impossible to outline the Trump administration’s policy.”

In terms of foreign relations, President Trump will likely adopt hard-line policies toward China and may very well cozy up to Russia. China, meanwhile, must be looking to avoid needless friction and ring in a new era of a Group of Two based on mutual agreement with the United States. There is a good chance that China will make significant concessions to the United States on economic issues and maneuver the pragmatic Trump administration, achieving bilateral agreement in an unexpected way.

Russia risks facing the worst if it finds itself left out in the Asia-Pacific region. It is racking its brains to avert such a situation, and, to that end, Russia continues to engage in talks with Japan.

Instead of spinning delusional stories about how President Putin assisted the pro-Russian Trump by using hackers and has the new US president under his thumb, or how the “demonic duo” of Putin and Trump will dominate the world, the US and British media would do well to properly investigate the facts. At the least, the Russians harbor no such delusions. Rather, they are watching with more dispassionate eyes where the Trump administration and American society are headed.

Ken Ishigooka is a journalist and former special editor of the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

The English-Speaking Union of Japan

石郷岡 建 / ジャーナリスト

2017年 2月 7日












一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Not-So-Simple Relations between Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America