The program starts with a discussion about what we actually know about President Elect Donald Trump’s policy towards Russia. Dr. Bain says that Trump’s foreign policy is still somewhat unknown. Professor Whalen agrees and says that Trump has been giving out conflicting signals and ideas. But he is ultimately a pragmatist, and a lot will depend on facts on the ground. Professor Whalen also says that one only needs to look at who Trump is appointing, for example Mike Flynn as possible National Security Advisor, and Mike Romney as Secretary of State, to see what changes might actually occur, as both have indicated anti-Russian positions in the past. Dr. Bain added that the fact that Donald Trump hasn’t had any experience in politics before and that the situation before an election and the reality after an election may be completely different. Time will tell on his ability to change foreign policy.
Dr. Bain elaborated, saying that future President Trump is going to be in a very difficult position, because he is going to have to curry favor with both the Democratic and Republican Parties, as both are against him. The majority of members of his own Republican Party in the Senate are very critical of Russia. Former presidential nominee John McCain, for example has been very clear of his opposition of getting closer to Russia. Any change on Capitol Hill will demand long-term preparation, and Donald Trump simply has not been around for very long. As Dr. Bain points out, Donald Trump will also be receiving CIA intelligence, which may also influence his attitude towards Russia.
In response to a question if Donald Trump could actually increase anti-Russian sentiments in the U.S? Professor Whalen says that he certainly could, if anything else should happen which would be perceived as negative Russian behavior. Dr. Bain pointed out that once you are in power you are constrained by the system. Professor Whalen went so far as Trump is like a little boy and if he doesn't get his own way, the results may be unpredictable.
During a discussion of how government works in the United States, it became clear that even if Trump were to use executive powers to remove the sanctions against Russia which were introduced by Obama using special executive branch powers, Congress may re-introduce them. As Professor Whalen points out, many of the Republican old guard possess a Cold War mindset and are adamantly against restoring ties with Russia.
Professor Whalen says that there is a chance to work with Russia against a common enemy, that is against radical Islam. Dr. Bain is less optimistic, and says that it might take a couple of years for anything to change, and there is very little that Trump will actually be able to do once in power. The situation is further complicated by the fact, as Professor Whalen points out, that the Democratic Party is in disarray and will try to use anything that they can against Trump and the Republicans. They are sitting on the sidelines, Professor Whalen says, waiting until the dust settles in the fight over Russian policy. Dr. Bain did mention at the end of the program that people are now talking about dialogue, and any dialogue is better than no dialogue.
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