Some circles in Russia placed hopes in Donald Trump, but 100 days of Trump showed that he is not at all ready for the cooperation with Russia that Moscow was dreaming of. The further fate of relations remains unclear. How the relations between Washington and Moscow will affect the South Caucasus remain unclear as well. With a request to share his predictions with us, we turned to Senior Eurasia Analyst in Stratfor Eugene Chausovsky.
In this context, do you think the Trump administration will show interest in the South Caucasus region? Will the region become a zone of competition between Moscow and Washington?
Despite the expectations by many observers that the US and Russia would significantly improve their relationship under US President Donald Trump, the reality is proving to be starkly different. During the presidential campaign, Trump questioned the value of Russian sanctions and suggested that US support for the NATO alliance, as well as Western-oriented countries like Ukraine, could be reduced. However, the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency has been marked by increased tensions between the US and Russia over Syria, as well as the maintenance of US support for NATO countries and continued backing of Ukraine in its proxy conflict with Russia.
This divergence between rhetoric and reality is in line with the US strategic imperative to contain Russia’s regional influence regardless of the personalities in charge of either country. And as Russia maintains an active involvement in Syria and increases activities in other theaters like Afghanistan, the broader tensions between Moscow and Washington are likely to persist, if not grow. This does not preclude negotiations and limited tactical cooperation between the countries from taking place, but such tensions reveal that the Russia-US collision is, and will continue to be, a deep and enduring one.
In this context, it is likely that the Trump administration will not significantly change US foreign policy when it comes to the South Caucasus region in the near to mid term. Though the Caucasus region is of secondary importance to the US when compared with theaters such as Syria and Ukraine, the US will nevertheless continue to back Georgia in its Western-integration efforts and play a role in the negotiation process over the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The US under Trump is unlikely to meaningfully increase its activities or presence in the region, but neither will Washington abandon its interests in the Caucasus as it continues to maintain its broader containment policy of Russia.