Former Assistant to Bush Jr.: ‘Issue of U.S.-Russia relations is not of much concern to most American voters’

In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, a famous political expert tells about the future of the U.S.-Russia relations after the 2016 United States Presidential Election

Former Assistant to Bush Jr.: ‘Issue of U.S.-Russia relations is not of much concern to most American voters’ Photo: mgimo.ru

The upcoming United States Presidential Election 2016, scheduled for 8 November, kindles people's interest around the world, including in Russia that is waiting for the cooperation vector with the largest world superpower to change. Thomas Graham, one of the greatest diplomats in the world history, managing director at Kissinger Associates and a friend of Russia, thinks that Europe will be the main problem of a new president of the USA, not Russia, particularly in light of the British decision to leave the European Union.

Bush's assistant and Kissinger's worker

Famous political expert Thomas Graham is well-known in Russia because he dedicated all his career to studying our country. From 1997 to 1998, he worked in the U.S. Embassy to Russia in Moscow. He is a Doctor of Philosophy (Harvard University) and Bachelor of Russian Studies (Yale University), the author of Russia's Decline and Uncertain Recovery. In his book, Mr Graham clearly and succinctly analyzes the sources of Russia's decline during the Soviet period and the dangerous fragmentation and erosion of state power in Russia during the 1990s.

Thomas Graham worked on Russian and Soviet affairs in the Department of State, served as Director for Russian Affairs on the National Security Council staff being a special assistant to George Bush Jr. until 2007. Thomas Graham studied what caused the formations of the oligarchic regime of the Yeltsin years and analysed the tendencies under Putin. According to Graham, whether Russia will achieve sustainable economic growth, political stability, and renewed international influence remains an open question.

From 1997-1998, Thomas GRaham worked in the U.S. Embassy to Russia in Moscow

Since 2007, Mr Graham has been a managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc., where he focuses on Russian and Eurasian affairs. The company was founded by great Henry Kissinger — a famous diplomat and political scientist, big friend of Russia who personally knows Vladimir Putin. He officially visited Putin several times.

A correspondent of Realnoe Vremya talked to Thomas Graham and asked him a couple of questions about what Russia should wait from a new president of the United States of America.

'A new administration will likely try to reengage Russia'

Mr Graham, will the relations between the USA and Russia change after the upcoming the United States Presidential Election? What will happen if Donald Trump wins? What should we wait for if Hillary Clinton wins? What do you think about that?

The new president — whether it is Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton — will conduct a review of Russia policy. Based on what they have said so far, Trump is likely to try to find a way of working with Russia, whereas Hillary Clinton will pursue a policy that is at least as hard as President Obama's is today. But much will depend on what happens between now and the inauguration of a new president. Should the Ukraine crisis be resolved — that is, should the Minsk Agreements be fulfilled — the a new administration, no matter who wins the election, will likely try to reengage Russia in a more constructive way.

Thomas Graham: 'As it is usually true in US elections, voters will likely make their decisions based on the positions candidates take on domestic issues, such as immigration, taxes, health care, and so on. Absent a major international event that directly affects Americans, such as a large, foreign-inspired terrorist attack in the United States, international affairs will be a secondary concern.' Photo: epa.eu

What should the candidates do in order to be chosen by the voters?

As it is usually true in US elections, voters will likely make their decisions based on the positions candidates take on domestic issues, such as immigration, taxes, health care, and so on. Absent a major international event that directly affects Americans, such as a large, foreign-inspired terrorist attack in the United States, international affairs will be a secondary concern.

Is the U.S.-Russia relations an important topic in the programme of the candidates?

U.S.-Russian relations is not, and likely will not be, an important issue in the elections. It is not an issue that is of much concern to most American voters.

Will the policy of the U.S. towards Europe change after the election?

I would expect that whoever wins the elections, greater attention will be focused on Europe, particularly in light of the British decision to leave the European Union. That raises the question of the character of the Euro-Atlantic Community, which has been a central element in American security and economic policy since the end of the Second World War.

By Aigul Ziyatdinova
Reference

Thomas Graham – American political scientist and expert on Russia, managing director at Kissinger Associates, Yale University professor, former Special Assistant to President George Bush Jr.

  • 1972 – 1981, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Political Science, Harvard University.
  • 1969 – 1972, Bachelor's degree, Russian Studies, Yales University.
  • 1984 – 1998, Foreign Service Officer. His assignments included two tours of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he served as head of the political/internal unit and acting political counselor. Between tours in Moscow, he worked on Russian and Soviet affairs on the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State and as a policy assistant in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
  • 1998 – 2001, Mr. Graham was a senior associate in the Russia/Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • 2001 – 2002, he served as the Associate Director of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State.
  • 2002 – 2004, Director for Russian Affairs on the National Security Council staff.
  • 2004 – 2007, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia on the National Security Council staff.
  • 2007 – today, managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc., where he focuses on Russian and Eurasian affairs.
  • 2011 – today, Senior Fellow, Yale University.
  • Graham is one of the founders and co-Directors of the Russian Studies Project at Yale, the author of Russia's Decline and Uncertain Recovery (2002) and co-author ofU.S.-Russian Relations at the Turn of the Century (2000).
  • Thomas Graham fluently speaks Russian. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and in European and Russian publications.