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Republican presidential TV debates: attitude to Russia unfriendly, but with silver lining

September 18, 2015, 18:09 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Republican presidential candidates during the CNN Republican presidential debate

Republican presidential candidates during the CNN Republican presidential debate

© AP Photo/Chris Carlson

MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. The televised debates of 15 presidential candidates from the Republican Party broadcast in the United States on Wednesday confirmed that there is "silver lining" in the relations between Washington and Moscow, experts polled by TASS said. However, they note that "regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat will head the White House, disagreements between the two countries will remain."

Billionaire Donald Trump, who currently enjoys the support of 37% of Republican voters, expressed confidence at the debates that he would "get along" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, not only on Syria, but also on Ukraine. His opponent Senator Marco Rubio expressed concern over Russia’s plans to strengthen its positions in the Middle East. Former head of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina said that she "wouldn’t talk to him at all." Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush refrained from commenting on relations with Russia at all. Senator Rand Paul took an intermediate position between the two opinion poles. He reminded that dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union continued even during the times of the Cold War, though the situation was much more complicated then. "I don't think we need to be rash, I don't think we need to be reckless, and I think need to leave lines of communication open," Rand Paul stressed.

Deputy Dean of the Department of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research Institute "Higher School of Economics" Andrey Suzdaltsev told TASS that the Republican presidential debates should not be considered as the statements made by decision-making politicians. "The debates are aimed at the public, at US voters, they are aimed at the domestic political field, though, of course, they reflect the positions of the candidates for the post of the White House head," Suzdaltsev said.

"The fact that Republican candidates actively discussed a range of foreign policy issues, that they discussed relations with Russia, indicates that they think about us. They think differently, distancing from each other. The picture comes out as checkered, but with a silver lining. The main thing that we heard was that candidates consider it necessary to discuss with Moscow different positions on Syria, on Ukraine, on Iran, and on geopolitics in the broad sense," the expert told TASS.

In general, the American establishment treats Russia as the country that last the World War, Suzdaltsev continued. "Washington treats Moscow as a winner and then wonders on what grounds Russia restores its important role in the world, including in the Middle East? The United States express readiness to allow Russia to partake in international affairs, but only as a contractor in carrying out Washington’s orders, which is unacceptable for Moscow," the expert noted.

"Republican televised debates were just for starters. There will be Democratic presidential debates, with Hillary Clinton in the lead. There is a great difference between these debates. Since the times of the Soviet Union, Russia has traditionally had strained contacts with US Democrat presidents. The exception was John Kenney, but while he was in office, we narrowly escaped the Third World War during the Caribbean Crisis. And if Hillary Clinton wins — no one can guarantee that the renewed Cold War will not turn into a ‘hot war’," Syzdaltsev warned.

"Unlike Democrats, Republicans are firm realists who can take into account the interests of other countries. Talking about Democrats, they will always call our countries ‘the empire of evil’ as long as it has nuclear weapons, even if it becomes an ideally democratic country," the expert said.

Head of the Center of International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexey Arbatov told TASS that the attitude was unfriendly toward Russia and hostile toward Putin at the televised Republican presidential debates. "However, several statements made by Republicans show that they do not share the official position of the White House toward the Kremlin and are in opposition to the ‘hawks’. This is the law of the two-party system. No matter who wins the presidential election in 2016 — a Republican or a Democrat — the relations between Moscow and Washington will depend not on the party affiliation of the White House host, but on the person himself," Arbatov stressed.

Talking about disagreements between Washington and Moscow on the settlement of the Syrian crisis and fighting against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization, the expert said Russia and the United States can find common ground. "The White House and the Kremlin can organized the Geneva III conference, negotiate creating a government of national unity in Syria with a transitional period for Bashar Assad, hold election and set up the base for a joint fights against IS. In any case, many Western politicians say unofficially that the situation in Syria is close to that in Iraq and Libya, and they support the idea of the Russian leadership to establish a broad international coalition to fight against IS. The problem is the Ukrainian crisis that became an insurmountable irritant in the relations between Moscow and Washington," Arbatov concluded.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors