Russian media roundup: The inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Davos economic forum and the convention of Eurosceptics in Germany all made headlines last week.
On Jan. 17-20, the World Economic Forum took place in Davos and brought together leaders of different countries, businessmen, politicians, economists and journalists from all over the world. Photo: Reuters
Last week Russian journalists focused their attention on the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. It overshadowed other domestic and foreign policy events. In addition, the Russian media also covered the Jan. 17-20 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the German convention that brought together Eurosceptics from across Europe.
Trump’s inauguration and his presidency’s impact
On Jan. 20, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially assumed the role of the presidency and moved into the Oval Office. As might be expected, his inauguration attracted a great deal of attention from the Russian media. Journalists focused on the ceremony itself as well on Trump’s first moves and the expected impact of his presidency on U.S-Russia relations, including sanctions.
Vedomosti, a business newspaper, points out the key principles of the new American president — populism, isolationism and protectionism. Trump’s inauguration speech, with its focus on the hardships of the ordinary American citizen who had to shoulder the burden of the economic crisis, suggests that the U.S. will have to live through a challenging period of time that could be like the Great Depression.
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Vedomosti also pays attention to the tone and the substance of Trump’s message to the American people, with his anti-establishment populism and criticism of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s social policy. He even didn’t mention the Republican party in the speech or any establishment institutions, which are supposed to help him in implementing his pledges. Usually, inauguration speeches are meant to unite people, but Trump’s performance indicates that he may already be alienating parts of the nation. This implies that his presidency will be unpredictable, which is not a good sign.
Meanwhile, Izvestia, a pro-government newspaper, published the opinions of Sergei Sudakov, a political pundit, who predicts that the next four-year period won’t be easy – not just for Americans, but also for Trump himself, because his pre-election pledges will be very hard to implement in the United States for objectives reasons (such as pressure from the U.S. Congress and numerous foreign policy challenges, including relations with Russia).
Although Russia is interested in improving relations with the U.S. and is pinning its hopes on Trump, it doesn’t mean that Moscow will make concessions to Washington unilaterally unless Trump offers reciprocity. Russia and the United States will have to work hard to reach compromise and it will require a lot of time.
At the same time, the pundits interviewed by the tabloid Moskovskiy Komsomolets question the ability of the new American president to cope with domestic and foreign policy challenges. After all, Trump overtly put himself into opposition to the entire Washington establishment and announced his audacious plans. However, today there seem to be no signs of him being able to get his plans off the ground, because his own party and the U.S. Congress may not support his initiatives.
The Davos economic forum
On Jan. 17-20, the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland and brought together leaders of different countries, high-profile businessmen, politicians, top managers, economists and journalists from all over the world. This year, the Chinese delegation, which was headed by the country’s president Xi Jinping, was one of the biggest delegations at the forum.
Gazeta.ru, an online media outlet, highlights that the ghost of Trump’s presidency haunted the forum, given the protectionist penchant of the new American leader and his pledges to restrict U.S. trade with China. Such rhetoric puzzled the participants of the Davos forum a great deal. One of the representatives of Russia in Davos, Anatoly Chubais, the head of Russian Nanotechnology Corporation (RUSNANO), described the environment in Davos as “an atmosphere of horror” ahead of Trump’s tenure.
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At the same time, Gazeta.ru points to the fact that the news and the fear about Trump overshadowed a very important agenda at the forum: the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the environmental challenges facing the world.
Likewise, business media outlet RBC Daily focuses on the “misgivings” of business and, specifically, its fears of Trump, “populism and extremism, the return to protectionist policy and trade wars.” Political uncertainty hampers big business, which is losing its confidence about the future. At the same time, RBC Daily highlights the fact that China, with its huge economic clout, played one of the key roles during the 2017 Davos summit. According to the newspaper, China attracts even more interest this year, unlike Russia that remains on the periphery of the forum.
Meanwhile, Vedomosti also raises the topic of the increasing role of China, which, oddly enough, has become the key driver and ideologue of liberal globalization. China has assumed the role of a responsible global leader that sets and maintains the global rules and is not afraid of discussing them with its Western counterparts.
However, the Western countries, including France and Germany, are focusing on their domestic challenges, which creates for China even more opportunities to maneuver.
The Eurosceptic summit in Germany
On Jan. 21 far-right and Eurosceptic leaders from Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere came together in the German city of Koblenz amidst the protests that brought together more than 3,000 people. The leaders of France’s National Front, Belgium’s Flemish Interest, Alternative for Germany and the Italian Northern League discussed their future plans in the European parliament in an attempt to bolster their popularity in Europe and contribute to creating a new world order.
Russian media paid a lot of attention to the summit, because Moscow sees the Eurosceptic and far-right populists as its allies.
Izvestia, a pro-government newspaper, expects that 2017 will be the year of the Eurosceptic parties, given that 2016 saw many shakeups, including the exit of the UK from the European Union (“Brexit”). Now that Trump has officially assumed the U.S. presidency, 2017 may see an increase in instability, given his populist and far-right rhetoric.
Moreover, the EU countries are facing numerous domestic challenges, which their political elites so far cannot respond to in a proper manner. And, amidst this uncertainty, Eurosceptic politicians plan to offer an alternative. And the attempt to unite all European far-right parties at one summit creates an opportunity for them to turn into political heavyweights.
At the same time, business daily Kommersant gives voice to a Russian expert, Sergei Utkin from the Russian Academy of Sciences, who assesses the odds of Europe’s far-right politicians being able to modify the current world order. He describes the summit as “ostentatious in its nature,” pointing to the fact that every political party is seeking publicity.
Their attempt to create a new world order is too audacious a goal to implement, he implies. Brexit and Trump’s presidency will mobilize European mainstream politicians who are interested in keeping their Eurosceptic counterparts at bay, Utkin added.
Expert comment of the week
Sergei Veselovsky, associate professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), about Trump’s inauguration:
President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech echoes the pledges of his pre-election campaign (America first! Buy American and hire American!). It also confirms his decisiveness to tackle America’s domestic problems first and foremost. He pays little attention to foreign policy and reiterated the necessity to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. After Trump’s inauguration, a new and exciting period of American and international politics started. It remains to be seen how Trump will change the system. He won’t give up without a fight.