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Will Trump victory affect Belarus-USA relations?

Grigory Ioffe, a professor of Redford University, historian and publicist, has answered questions of the program Picture of the World about the presidential race in the USA.

Grigory, hello!

Grigory Ioffe, professor at Redford University (USA):

Is Trump's win a sensation or is it quite normal in America where everything is possible?

Grigory Ioffe:
Certainly, it is a sensation. The majority of professional forecasters were unable to predict the win of Mr Trump. Media, including leading channels like CNN, like the Washington Post and New York Times and other newspapers, network resources - all of them predicted the victory of Hillary Clinton.

Not only predicted. The newspaper Washington Post, just like Soviet Pravda newspaper, helps Clinton.

Grigory Ioffe:
This is quite true. One of American citizens working in Moscow has recently made this comparison. It is quite true. Support for Clinton in the media was sometimes beyond the bounds of decency. If I was asked one day before the election, I would have predicted the victory of Clinton.

What do you think of Trump as a person, man and a politician?

Grigory Ioffe:
When this campaign was just beginning, his figure produced a rather sad impression on me, compared with other Republican candidates. He managed to antagonize a significant part of the electorate, some of the minorities and women. His remarks did not just ignore political correctness. But in an ordered society, where there are lots of social and ethnic groups, it's impossible to completely abandon political correctness. You simply run the risk of humiliating and antagonizing certain groups of people, which he successfully did. Despite this, his victory may indicate that he put some groups against himself and consolidated some other groups. This group consists of now white majority. I say 'now', because the percentage of non-Hispanic white Americans has been steadily declining, but still amounts to 69% of the population. This group of the population was more consolidated than one might have been expected.

I suspect that you are a Democratic Party member in some way, aren't oyu?

Grigory Ioffe:
I don't belong to any party. Like I did in the USSR. It so happened that I always voted for Democrats at all elections. But it just happened so, this is not my constant political preference.

You thus justify the present voting. I understand that you voted for Clinton.

Grigory Ioffe:
No, I did not vote for either of them, can you imagine that? There were some other candidates. The fact is that both candidates - Trump and Clinton - had enormous anti-ratings. This is not just a statistical measure. Many people casting a vote thought about who will bring less evil.

You said that you have a non-party past. If you look at history, at a time when the Soviet Union (we lived in this country) had a time of one ruling party, the Soviet Union and the United States had more problems. This is the Korean crisis of 1952 and the Cuban missile crisis, and the bombing of Yugoslavia, too. And it was under the Democrats. Now the Republicans have come. If we consider the whole past history, can we expect improvement in the relations between Belarus and Russia with the USA?

Grigory Ioffe:
Relationships can be improved, but not because the Republicans have replaced Democrats. Trump came to power not just as a Republican. He's not an ideologist. Trump is a businessman. A businessman who earns money within the United States. Trump could theoretically claim the role of a candidate from the Democratic Party. After all, look at how many points changed in his program (on abortion, gay marriages) in order to better comply with conservatives, who grouped around the Republican Party. I want to say that Trump is Trump. After all, what was the difficulty of Trump? He surprisingly successfully overcame it! The entire establishment of the Republican Party turned against him, only one senator from Alabama openly supported him openly and some other senator and that's all. The USA has 100 senators! You are absolutely right. So it turned out that relationships were more complicated under the Democrats than under the Republicans. In this case, a person who came to power does not represent any...

But the party is behind him!

Grigory Ioffe:
Behind him is the party that will be greatly reformatted. After all, if all the major ideologists spoke against him, they cannot just instantly go to his side without losing face. So, he will recruit advisors and members of his government from somewhere else.

We are all familiar with the text of Putin's congratulations and the greetings of Alexander Lukashenko on the occasion of Trump's win. They are more optimistic than those of the French President Hollande, who directly said that he perceives the Trump victory with wary.

Grigory Ioffe:
European politicians about whom you spoke of course have been almost completely sure of the victory of Clinton. Of course, ideologically, they are closer to Clinton, they have a lot of experience in dealing with her, despite a number of differences. But Trump says things such as the ineffectiveness of NATO and about the fact that a number of members of NATO do not pay fees, which would amount to 2% of their national income.

So he means that Trump does not want to guard these European countries if they don't pay for their safety.

Grigory Ioffe:
Let them at least pay what they are required to pay. I remember that an hour after Trump said that, the President of Estonia came out and said: "But we do pay 2%." Instantly it was seen that others looked worried. It turned out really that Estonia does pay its modest 2%. And many do not pay. Therefore, it is in his disregard for political correctness he violated, at least in the pre-election declarations, some sacred things such as the promotion of democracy, NATO, relations with Russia, and so on.

Let's see what will happen in a few years.

Grigory Ioffe:
The president, of course, sets the tone. This is a very influential figure. But there is the Congress, there are many other factors which Trump will have to consider.

With regard to Belarus, the European Union has lifted sanctions. But there are certain sanctions imposed by the United States. But we feel better than Russia in this regard. Do you think that Belarus has some prospect of improved relations with the US?

Grigory Ioffe:
Belarus not only has prospects. In my eyes, for the last two or three years, there has already been an improvement. Knowing personally some representatives of your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and treating them with great respect, I know that being in Washington, they proposed a number of initiatives, proactive ones. Important role was played by the peacekeeping role of Belarus in the Ukrainian crisis. As for the sanctions - this is an example which suggests that the President will have it very difficult without the Congress. It is easy to impose sanctions. But it is hard to then remove them. It is necessary to push this through the Congress commissions. And around each member of these commissions, there is a circle of lobbyists, some pressure groups, some emigre groups. They all need something. This is a fairly complex system, a cumbersome one. The president sets the tone and, of course, he can do a lot of things but not all. It seems to me that even the return of the ambassadors is easier to resolve than the lifting of the sanctions. What do the US sanctions mean given the trade turnover between Belarus and the US is very small? These sanctions are symbolic. They are important for investors. Of course it would be nice if they were removed. But they do not harm directly the economic situation in Belarus. They hurt indirectly. The EU sanctions are much more important. Since we have huge trade here. Therefore, the fact that the European Union lifted sanctions is a very good one.

Do you feel comfortable, convenient in Belarus?

Grigory Ioffe:
Certainly. I am comfortable. I feel good. I am well received. You receive me in a very good way.

Some can think that something is behind it! Just kidding.

Grigory Ioffe:
Unfortunately, no material factors are behind it. I am sometimes accused of this. Then I think it would be better if there was something material behind this, because I will be accused of this anyway!

America has taught you to think in more mercantile terms compared to the times when you were a Soviet professor! Thank you, Grigory.

Impact of Trump’s victory on Belarus-USA relations: Interview with Grigory Ioffe