Is a new Cold War in the cards now that Donald Trump has been elected the next U.S. President?
With Trump’s election victory, Eastern Europe feels as if it’s hanging by a thread. Trump is one of the most unpredictable people to ever win the U.S. presidency, and that uncertainty raises big worries all over the world. Many are saying that Russia and the U.S. are already in a state of undeclared Cold War. The two nations don’t know what to expect from Trump – a friendly reset or a violent offense?
Trump has been repeatedly labeled as “Russia’s puppet” and has been criticized for his pledges to become friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Eastern European countries which think their independence is being threatened by Russia are grasping for any string of hope that the U.S. is still standing by their side.
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But Trump’s protectionist and isolationist remarks urge Europe and NATO to wonder whether the U.S. will still have its allies’ backs? Would Trump, who has repeatedly slammed NATO for being “obsolete” and inefficient, really send American soldiers to die to save some Eastern European country’s independence?
NATO feels vulnerable amid Trump’s presidency
A new video by CNN shows that Norway is preparing for all kinds of outcomes. After Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 and is said to have been fueling the deadly conflict in Eastern Ukraine, European nations – especially those bordering Russia – feel vulnerable. The video shows Norwegian and U.S. soldiers holding military drills on the Norway-Russia border near Kirkenes. Meanwhile, Russia is closely watching the drills as multiple drones – believed to be from Russia – were spotted observing the drills. So in what is reminiscent of the Cold War era, one player is trying to scare off its opponent, while the other one is closely watching every single step of his enemy.
Norway is one of NATO’s most easterly members, which is why the U.S. feels the need to protect its ally. Some 300 U.S. Marines are expected to be sent in January to Norway, where they’ll serve on a rotational basis.
The move comes the same month Trump will be sworn in as U.S. President. Many experts believe that Trump will significantly decrease U.S. commitments – both military and economic – to NATO and its members. In that case, it’s believed that NATO could even cease to exist, because without the U.S., it would struggle to keep itself running, let alone protect any of its members from Russia’s potential threats.
How likely is Cold War 2?
So how likely is Cold War 2? At this point, it’s tough to say. During his presidential campaign, Trump has made a series of comments that suggest the new U.S. President could take a pro-Russia and anti-NATO stance.
Trump’s slightly pro-Russia views are actually echoing sentiments in Europe. The Obama administration has been pushing the rest of the world to join forces against Russia to counter Putin’s threat, but U.S. allies have become less and less enthusiastic about having to further isolate Russia.
Many European countries are trading with Moscow and have lucrative military deals with Putin. Imposing sanctions on their economic partner has proven counterproductive for many European countries, which is why they are trending away from U.S. hard-line policies toward Russia.
Hungary, France, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, and even Germany are the most notable examples of countries that are becoming less anti-Russian for the sake of their own national interests. And Trump comes at the very time when the U.S. needs to decide if it’ll be pursuing its – as many believe – unjustified hard-line policies toward Russia or start dealing with Moscow.
The U.K.’s vote in favor of leaving the European Union is yet another indication of Europe’s changing sentiment. European nations are expressing their desire to be making decisions by themselves and not be told by the U.S. what to do and who to partner with.
What’s Trump’s opinion about U.S.-Russia relations?
Since outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama started isolating Russia in 2014, everyone thought it was the beginning of a new Cold War because Russia won’t survive as a pariah state. But that’s not actually what has happened. Two years later, Putin is actually one of the busiest national leaders in the world. In addition to that, he has received high praise from Trump for his leadership values.
Since 2014, Putin has traveled all over the world, from China to the Middle East and Europe. There are still those – like Norway – who believe Putin is a big threat to the world. There are also those – like Ukraine – who believe they’re being engaged in a direct military confrontation with Putin. But there are also those – like Pakistan and China – who believe dealing with Russia can actually be lucrative business.
So what’s America’s stance now that Trump is the new President? Will he be among those who believe in Putin’s threat? Or is he prepared to officially declare a Cold War or even engage in a direct military confrontation with Russia? Or will he actually sit at one table with Putin and finally start figuring out what to do with Syria, Iran and North Korea – the three most pressing issues of our time?
Trump’s actions as President: attack Russia or be friends with it?
Following the example of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, Trump and Putin could begin with nuclear and other military issues. To prevent a Cold War and nuclear war between the two nations, Trump and Putin could finally agree to take nuclear arms off high alert and possibly adopt a mutual policy of no-first-use of nuclear warheads.
Current tensions between the U.S. and Russia prevent the two nations from hammering out any nuclear or military agreements. Every time the two nations sit at a negotiations table, they tend to start accusing one another of ramping up their military strength.
Until Trump’s presidency, the U.S. establishment has been divided into those who want to be strict towards Russia but remain sensible,and those who want to take extreme measures in dealing with Russia’s potential threats. Starting January 20, Trump will be the new U.S. President. In addition to that, he will have a Republican-dominated Congress and Senate. During Obama’s presidency, the Republicans couldn’t adopt some of their measures because of Obama, and vice versa – Obama couldn’t pass some of his measures because of the Republicans blocking his policies in Congress and Senate.
Thus, Trump will have more freedom of action and fewer constraints in foreign policy. But what will Trump choose to do with all that? Will he attack Russia and start a Cold War or actually reset U.S.-Russia relations?