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Trump really wants to get along with Russia, expert says

Previously all US administrations after the end of the Cold War sought to dictate their will to Moscow, according to US analyst Larry Wilkerson

WASHINGTON, February 13. /TASS/. New US President Donald Trump really wants to get along with Russia, while previously all US administrations after the end of the Cold War sought to dictate their will to Moscow, US analyst Larry Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told TASS.

Since the 42nd US President Bill Clinton took office, "it's been every administration's view, more or less, ever since. And that is, the Russians ought to do what we tell them to do," said Wilkerson, who is a professor at College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"They lost the Cold War, they have no business having interests in the near abroad... no business opposing NATO's expansion to wherever we want it to go. Tbilisi, Kiev, wherever we want it to go, NATO should be able to go. And what the Russians should do, is kowtow up to us, and simply become members themselves. Not necessarily powerful members, but members that know their place," he said.

The analyst, who is familiar with the situation in the US Republican Party, said it is not consolidated around Trump and is divided into three or four currents. The hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham share this approach towards Russia and ramp up the Cold War rhetoric.

"They do not like the fact that we won the Cold War, and the Russians look like they're reaping the benefits," Wilkerson said.

As for the Trump administration, the analyst said it is early to judge about the chances for its success as its policy has not been defined. "As to why they are so intent - if you don't take any of those conspiracy theories into account - my only expectation is that their intent is to amplify what seems to be their number one security objective which is to go after what they call radical Islam that has as its leading edge Daesh or the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda ( both terrorist organizations banned in Russia) and so forth," he said.

"It also happens to correspond with Moscow's real security wish which is probably to eliminate the threat to the soft underbelly of Russia from so many radical Muslims, highlighted in the struggle over Chechnya," Wilkerson said. "I do see the real commonality between Moscow's security objectives and Washington's."

The new US president has also demonstrated that he has "a real affinity" for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. "And I don't know if that is reciprocated by Mr. Putin but I would say that that seems to be, at least prima facie, the real relationship."

"I personally don't like the way American presidents tend to deal with people rather than states. States tend to be around and to be solid and to be bureaucratic and slow moving and so forth. People get you into trouble," he said.

The analyst recalled that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said "admiring things" about Colin Powell, who served under US President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. "And Colin said them about Sergey. They liked each other."

Speaking on Rex Tillerson, he said the speech that he gave upon entering the State Department "was very impressive." "It was not very different from the speech Colin Powell gave when he entered the State Department. If he lives up to that speech - and that's a big, big challenge - I think he'll be a pretty good Secretary of State."

"He will bring pragmatism and sanity and sobriety to what in the past from time to time has been passion and ideology. I don't think passion and ideology have much business at the State Department. Pragmatism, practicality, compromise - those sorts of things make better diplomatic tools than passion and emotion," Wilkerson said.

"So if Tillerson brings this kind of dispassionate businesslike approach to his diplomatic world, I think it could be a positive factor. But the question then becomes - as it always does - how much will President Trump let him do," he said.