Boris Mezhuyev: "Russian and American conservatives should establish dialogue beyond personal meetings between Putin and Trump"
Russian philosopher, candidate of philosophical sciences, political scientist, editor-in-chief of Terra America portal, Boris Mezhuev, discussed conservative and liberal movements in the US and their impact on the Russian-American dialogue in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza. The first part is dedicated to American conservatism and the ways it interacts with modern Russian conservatism.
- What can Trump and Putin agree on, considering the fact that Trump has to constantly fight against internal American opponents?
- Trump and Putin can always agree on something, but before 2018 midterm elections, when configuration in the future House of Representatives and Senate will be determined, any agreements will be tactical, preliminary. There can't be any big deal precisely because Trump's position within the country is very unstable. He largely depends on his own party, and if democrats win midterm elections, taking majority in both House of Representatives and Senate, the beginning of impeachment procedure seems inevitable. This procedure may not be completed and won't necessarily be successful, but if democrats win - it is obvious that it will begin. Today's reports that Trump administration allegedly began an investigation into the activities of special prosecutor Robert Mueller shows that the conflict is growing.
Nevertheless, preliminary agreements between presidents, including on Syria and Eastern Europe, are possible after situation will get a little better. Personally, I believe in the possibility of such preliminary agreement, not because of some special friendship between Trump and Putin, between Russia and the United States, just because of current realities. The realities show that if the US will continue to put pressure on Russia without taking into account its interests in different regions, it will lead to serious consequences for all mankind. I believe in that.
- Trump and Putin are conservatives. Are there any common interests, which can help them to interact positively?
- The question of their conservative positions is very interesting. Indeed, there is a hope that someday there will be a conservative dialogue between the Russian Federation and American conservative republicans. Actually, this topic has been raised several times. Reagan was moving closer to the USSR in hope that Mikhail Gorbachev will push for conservative transformation of the Soviet Union. I'm sure that if Ronald Reagan met with Vladimir Putin today, he would have the best relations with our president, because personal faith of every leader was very important for Reagan. Unfortunately, other people came to power in the US in 1988, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton weren't conservatives. Then there was George W. Bush, and there was a hope that he will develop good relations with Putin on a conservative basis, but he couldn't distinguish between conservatives and neo-conservatives. He was under influence of the latter. Neo-conservatives took extremely hard line position on Russia since the USSR and they had no intention of changing it when it comes to to the Russian Federation.
Today there is a new generation of conservatives in the United States. They are right-wing politicians, many of them understand current realities, take realistic positions in foreign policy issues. They are culturally and mentally close to us. I think constructive cooperation is possible, if not with Trump, then with this new generation of conservative American consciousness that made Trump's victory possible. These people focuse on the American industry, restoration of "Rust Belt" and bringing it to a normal state. They are people who understand that there are no big conflicts between Russia and the United States and that there is a need to bring European oriented non-European nations together. Russia and the United States are not a part of Europe, but they have European culture and origin. It is necessary to interact, especially considering the fact that the world is becoming multipolar. I really hope that there will be such dialogue, but so far it is rather difficult. Any contact with Russians - I'm not even talking about people whose profession is associated with Russia, but about simply conservative ideologists, thinkers, philosophers, who come into contact with people from Russia- creates an element of suspicion and tensions, which hinder our dialogue.
Of course, direct dialogue between Putin and Trump also has its significance, but it is important to bring societies and intellectual communities of the two countries closer. The most unpleasant thing about the contacts that allegedly happened between members of Trump's election campaign and Russia is that it was usually business contacts, in other words, businessmen met businessmen or lawyers. Trump really hoped that as a businessman he would be able to come to terms with pragmatically thinking Russian leadership - but it turned out that disclosing these business contacts is dangerous, because people always see greed, pragmatism and personal interests behind them. This means that we need spiritual and ideological contacts, which are mostly established by liberals and no one pays attention to them, since they are perceived as completely normal - I'm talking about the Carnegie Center, the Valdai Forum and other platforms where experts communicate . But as soon as conservatives try to get closer and talk, a lot of questions arise, regarding bout Russian and American participants. That's why I would focus not on warming personal relations, personal chemistry between Trump and Putin, but on chemistry of ideological movements in our country and in the United States. It is extremely necessary.
Just like the dialogue between our parliaments. Right now Trump largely depends on the Congress, on republican majority, which mostly harms the dialogue with Russia. We need meetings between parliaments to make our positions clear, so that those republicans who vote for sanctions in the Congress would understand Russian position and tensions between us would soften or at least get a clear form. After that we can clarify our positions, not exchange sanctions and hostile declarations.
- How can you describe conservatism in foreign policy in the modern world?
- There is a general framework for perception of this word: conservatism is a status quo. I think that to some degree this is true for today's world. Conservatives should be in favor of not breaking the existing order of international relations and try to preserve it: not to destroy international law or the right of any nation to sovereignty. Nevertheless, there are new realities, there is some kind of cohesion against the background of some common religious or parareligious identity. Many people talk about post-secular era, in other words, not about the fact that secularization is fading, but about the emergence of a secular religion. In Europe it is called a religion of human rights - it is also based on the notion that there are certain higher values, which are higher than both national and personal interests.
Conservatism in foreign policy is an understanding of two factors: understanding of the need to preserve existing order in order to avoid bloody war, and recognition that such realities truly exist and that they must be taken into account. If some part of the state becomes closer to another state as a center of its civilizational identity, like the inhabitants of Crimea became closer to Russia and inhabitants of Western Ukraine became closer to Europe, then the integrity of such states depends on whether these parts can live together. If they can't, it should be admitted that it is better for them to go separate ways in order to avoid civil war.