Many Russians are writing reviews of the past year and speculating about what the next year holds. Ivan Preobrazhansky writes:
“Western democracies have rebelled against their elites, but in the East authoritarian regimes have only been strengthened. The main event of 2016, of course, is now considered to be “Brexit”.”
The elite have retained power, he continues, but “…they must now perform “the will of the people”.”
And the same thing happened in the United States. It does not appear that Trump and his staff expected to win. But Americans “tired of the dictates of tolerance, decided otherwise…”
Trump’s foreign policy plans are still mostly a mystery but Preobrazhansky repeats the belief that seems to be held by many in the Russian commentariat: that Trump will not end the sanctions imposed by the US government.
“Moreover, there is no reason to assume that the new president will start his activities with the recognition of Crimea’s accession to Russia.”
Preobrazhansky also believes it unlikely that Trump will overturn the majority of Obama’s own executive orders. “In particular, the ban on the production of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.”
Expectations of Trump are likely over-hyped by both his supporters and his opponents, he alleges. “But this will become clear only in the coming year.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, last year Russia “… was one of the most talked about and influential (at least in words) of the countries in the world. It became clear to Western leaders that they would not succeed in solving the Syrian crisis without the participation of Vladimir Putin.”
Preobrazhansky reminds his readers how at the beginning of 2016, Russia and Turkey could not have been farther apart, as a result of the Russian military aircraft which was shot down by Turkey over a contested area in Syria. “It seemed that the states were on the verge of war.”
But the tense situation suddenly turned for the better after the alleged coup against Turkey’s President Erdogan in July, “…which led to the transformation of the authoritarian regime of Erdogan to [one that is] openly dictatorial, and Moscow is surprising perhaps the closest partner of Ankara. As a result, together with Iran they have divided Syria into zones of influence, ignoring the US.”
And then, of course, there was the decision by the Obama administration to invoke new sanctions on Russia for the hacking of the DNC. This has only reinforced the stereotype that the Kremlin can “intervene in the internal affairs of any country in the world and influence it according to its own interests…”
So now “the whole world is infected with a virus of general mistrust. Voters do not trust the national ruling elites – and a vivid example of this is not even the Trump victory, but the presidential elections in Austria, where, because of differences in the counting of the votes had to carry out a second round [of voting].”
And even the elites do not trust one another. Europe no longer trusts the US (and even more so after Trump’s election).
“China is on the verge of a military conflict with several of its neighbors, including Japan, and has shown a willingness to take Russia under its wing. And Russia itself has lost the confidence of its only ally – Belarus, given Lukashenko’s [recent] refusal to attend the summit of the Eurasian Economic Union.”
There are only two ways out of this impasse, Preobrazhansky concludes. Either slowly attempt to rebuild confidence in the current system, a process that will take years, or try to chart a new path and “…create a new system of international relations. However, history shows that, as a rule, a radical redivision of the world order needs a great war.”