PUTIN’S PEEPS: What Russia’s U.S. Experts Say About The 2016 Election
In 1967, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union established a new think tank to study the enemy. Its experts reported directly to the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and, on occasion, directly to the Kremlin. For 24 years, the Institute for American and Canadian Studies had a monopoly on such expert advice.
Today, while the Institute continues to play an important role in Russia’s foreign policy community, the field of American political expertise has become a broad school. With standalone university courses, independent experts and university professors, there are now multiple sources of expertise on the enemy. Of course, few of the most independent are reflected on the country’s television screens.
With the U.S. presidential election in its final stretch, The Moscow Times decided to poll some of Russia’s top U.S. experts with a view to get the Moscow perspective on a presidential election that promises to be the most consequential in decades. As many of them noted, it is also an election in which Russia appears to have a clear vested interest.
Who will win the election?
Pavel Sharikov, head of the center of applied research at the Academy of Science’s Institute for American and Canadian Studies — Russia’s oldest U.S. research outfit.
As has been the case since I started observing U.S. elections in 2000, it’s really hard to say anything before November. The victory of an experienced politician like Clinton still seems more probable, but Trump’s campaign style is very aggressive. He might have a few aces up his sleeve. Already, Clinton almost lost several times to Bernie Sanders — a politician who is basically considered to be a Communist by American standards — so her chances of winning are not entirely persuasive.
Dmitry Suslov, professor of American Politics at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics
Hillary Clinton will win, I predict. Election results in the United States are usually determined by swing states, and independent voters who are more or less moderate and centrist. For these kinds of people, Donald Trump is just too radical. He succeeded in winning the Republican nomination because of his extreme and populist viewpoints. But, given the choice between him and Hillary Clinton, the conventional moderate American voter would vote for continuity and stability, rather than the kind of revolution that Trump brings with him.
Mikhail Troitskiy, professor of international relations at MGIMO, expert on American foreign policy.
I would certainly bet on Clinton’s victory. But I wouldn’t put all my money on Hillary becoming the next president. We will see what unfolds between now and November; see which issues pop up. For the moment, however, Clinton does have a better chance of winning than Trump.
Andrei Sushentsov, program director at the Valdai Discussion Club and head of the Foreign Policy Advisory Group:
I think Trump has a better sense of the zeitgeist in the American majority right now. That said, I think the Clinton campaign has better organization and greater capacity to get out the vote in decisive states. So, I think in the end Clinton will win.
This has been a very unorthodox election. How do you explain it to Russians?
The American political system is in a process of unstoppable change, and both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are proof of this. Together, they showed that the American public is generally not okay with globalization. Today, people are basically saying ‘We don’t want that kind of tomorrow, so give us back our comfortable yesterday.’ Trump is exploiting those feelings.
The election of 2024 will most likely be decisive in terms of American domestic politics. Clinton is the white knight of the Washington elite, and the Trump and Sanders phenomena show the American people
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