Because of the enthusiasm that United States President-elect Donald Trump showed during his election campaign toward mending ties with Russia, many observers believe that once the U.S. presidency is handed over to Trump, U.S.-Russia relations, which have deteriorated enough to be dubbed "the New Cold War," will improve.
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have already agreed in a telephone conference that they would make mutual efforts to normalize relations between their two countries. We welcome the world's two biggest nuclear states' aspirations to improve bilateral relations. A thawing of tensions between the two countries is crucial in making progress toward nuclear disarmament and in stabilizing international affairs.
However, we cannot abide a "cooperative" approach by Trump that is effectively a tacit approval of Russia's moves to bring about change through force. This amounts to a distortion of the basic principles of international law, which the U.S. has thus far taken a leading role in promoting.
Trump has made statements of implicit approval toward Russia's unilateral annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine. Some in Russia have high hopes that Trump, as a materialist, will move to lift economic sanctions currently applied to Russia. However, Russia's changing of state borders through the use of force and its provision of military support to pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine not only violated Ukraine's sovereignty, but international law. If Trump closes his eyes to such facts, that would be reason enough for us to be anxious about the future of international order.
Concerns in Europe of how Trump will deal with Russia are especially widespread. NATO has been building up defense capabilities in such areas as the three Baltic states neighboring Russia. Trump, however, has criticized European countries for not coughing up its due share of costs, signaling the possibility that he will pull U.S. troops out of Europe.
Trump has also hinted at the possibility of cooperating with Russia in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. U.S.-Russia cooperation is vital in fighting Islamic fundamentalist groups, but further chaos will ensue if the two countries were to destroy the framework for negotiation created by the U.S. and Europe by backing up Syrian rebels.
The impacts that U.S.-Russia relations will have on Japan-Russia relations are complicated. If the U.S. and Russia were to grow closer, the U.S. is likely to become less wary of a close Japan-Russia relationship. When it comes to territorial issues, however, this will mean that Russia would have less of a motivation to move closer to Japan in order to sway the U.S.
Meanwhile, many experts in Russia have pointed out the inconsistencies in Trump's statements, and cautioned against expecting too much from him. In the U.S. Congress, Republicans, who take a hard-line stance toward Russia, comprise the majority, and have not made any changes to their policy of further military buildup. For the time being, the Putin administration is likely to wait and see what steps the next U.S. administration takes once it assumes power.
What is particularly worrisome is the chance that the mentality of bringing one's country first -- as demonstrated by Trump's campaign slogan of "America First" -- will spread around the world. If that line of thinking were to spread, solutions to the major issues we face today, such as terrorism and refugees, will only move further out of reach. It is in preventing that very thing from happening that makes cooperation between the U.S. and Russia so important.