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Russian Observers Offer Different Views on Trump's Significance

FILE - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at The Palladium in Carmel, Indiana, May 2, 2016.

A Russian political scientist says the world is alarmed by this year’s American presidential election campaign, which has “destroyed all the canons of political life in the United States.”

Following his victories in Tuesday’s U.S. Republican Party presidential primaries in the states of West Virginia and Nebraska, the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has begun considering possible running mates. It is increasingly likely that next November’s presidential election will see Trump face off against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Russian observers have been taking a closer look at the meaning of the billionaire real estate mogul’s meteoric political ascent.

“Every sneeze by the global superpower causes convulsions of the world order," political scientist Lilia Shevtsova told VOA’s Russian service, adding that the world is increasingly worried that the next U.S. president will pursue an “aggressive” policy with “destructive” tendencies.

Lilia Shevtsova
Lilia Shevtsova

In Shevtsova's view, the current upheaval in American politics was inevitable, even though its precise shape was hard to predict.

"We are talking here not just about American history, but also about a crisis that appeared long ago in liberal democracy, which had ceased to respond to internal and external challenges,” she said. “We see in Western society the dysfunctionality of certain democratic institutions, the inability of governments to rein in the financial oligarchy, the growing problem of [in]equality and [in]justice, the unwillingness of those in power to cope with the wave of migrants, and their confusion in the face of external threats and … an onslaught by an ‘anti-liberal international’ [movement].”

The result, said Shevtsova, is the kind of situation described by the British historian Arnold Toynbee — a buildup of challenges that the system cannot respond to, leading to a crisis.

"This crisis manifests itself in the paralysis of the governing structures of the [European Union], and the growing influence of right-wing and left-wing political forces; the threatened ‘Brexit’ [Britain’s possible exit from the EU], and the emergence of authoritarianism in certain EU member countries — for example, in Hungary,” she said. “The emergence in the U.S. of the socialist [Bernie] Sanders and the populist Trump as presidential candidates is another manifestation of liberal democracy’s systemic crisis.”

FILE - Protesters demonstrate against Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in midtown Manhattan in New York City, April 14, 2016.
FILE - Protesters demonstrate against Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in midtown Manhattan in New York City, April 14, 2016.

According to Shevtsova, much will depend on how the United States copes with "its own dysfunctionality,” given that that it is not only the leader, but the factor that “cements” the West.

Thus far, the prognosis is not good, she added.

"The U.S. is entering a new phase of the electoral race, and Trump’s participation as the Republican candidate will make this race the dirtiest in American history,” Shevtsova said, adding that Trump could become the next U.S. president, which would prolong the current “period of disorientation in the sole superpower.”

For his part, Vladimir Sogrin, editor in chief of the Russian magazine Modern and Contemporary History, is less alarmed about the possibility of a Trump presidency.

He told VOA that while the presumptive Republican nominee employs rhetoric and ideas that are “demagogic,” his success has been due to the fact that he has tapped into “the latent sentiment of ‘white America,' which is tired of political correctness” and wants the country to define itself as a “melting pot,” not on the basis of “multiculturalism.”

According to Sogrin, Trump has taken all of this into account and is offering a “renovationist agenda” that could put him in the White House.