In 2017, will Trump remove sanctions against Russia?
Republican candidate Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential polls could well benefit Russia. Many analysts had predicted a Trump presidency was preferable for the Russian establishment. After Trump won the presidential race, the first international leader to congratulate him was Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Russia is ready to do everything possible to return its relations with the U.S. to a stable trajectory," said Putin.
"We heard the election statements of the U.S. presidential candidate, which aimed to restore relations between Russia and the U.S. We understand and are well aware that this will not be an easy thing to do, considering the degradation which, unfortunately, U.S.-Russian relations are in," said Putin.
‘Business is functioning at low speeds’
The volume of trade figures for the January-August 2016 period show the U.S. as sixth among all of Russia's foreign trade partners, 10th in terms of Russian export volumes and third in terms of imports.
Commodity turnover between Russia and the U.S. in this period declined by 14.5 percent to $12.2 billion and Russian exports dropped in monetary value by 15.42 percent to $5.5 billion, although they grew in physical volumes by 5.24 percent.
According to the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, in the January-August 2016 period, Russian exports to the U.S. consisted of mineral products (33.5 percent), metals (30.7 percent), chemical products and rubber (18.5 percent), machines, equipment and vehicles (6.8 percent) and precious stones (5.8 percent).
Representatives of the government's economic bloc, as well as businessmen, are not hiding their expectations of a possible thaw in relations with the U.S.
"Russia will do everything to restore relations with the U.S, including in the fields of economy and trade," said Alexei Ulyukayev, Minister of Economic Development. "But I don’t want to jinx the hope, I'd say. We are open and would like to see the same thing in our American partners.”
Ulyukayev added that, "trade and economic relations have been frozen for two and a half years" between Russia and the U.S. "We don't have contact with U.S. officials. Business is functioning at low speeds."
Business circles are also waiting for improvement in trade and economic cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.
"Trump's victory is a sign. In general, it signifies the beginning of a period of simple decisions both in politics and the economy," noted Boris Titov, plenipotentiary for the protection of entrepreneur rights, in an interview with Gazeta.ru.
Titov also sees a downside to Trump's victory. The main risk is the further fall in oil prices. "Among Trump's election campaign promises was the opening of all American oil reserves, which means the further fall of oil prices, something that will add problems to our economy."
Will sanctions on Russia be lifted?
One of Russian business's main hopes is the removal or weakening of American sanctions.
"During his electoral campaign Donald Trump demonstrated a more favourable attitude to Russia than any other election participants, including Mike Pence. It is entirely possible that the hopes for favourable changes toward Russia in America's foreign policy, including the lifting of the sanctions, will provide sanctioned Russian companies a rising growth in quotations," said Titov.
Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at SaxoBank, predicts that the U.S. may partially lift the sanctions against Russia in 2017.
"In 2017 the U.S., most likely, will lift the sanctions, or part of them," he told Gazeta.ru."
Sanctions imposed by the U.S. restrict Russian oil and gas companies from attracting capital from American financial structures, as well as supplies of equipment and technologies for working on deep shelves and extracting difficult-to-access reserves.
"We believe that the sanctions against us are not only unjust but they also damage the interests of our American partners," said Mikhail Leontyev, Rosneft press secretary. "But there are grounds to suppose that Donald Trump, unlike the previous U.S. administration, does not intend to hurt the interests of American companies."
Leontyev said if Trump manages to realize his promises about the protection of American industry, this will also touch upon the issue of the sanctions.
Authors: Alexei Topalov, Rustem Falyakhov, Karina Romanova, Yelena Platonova
First published in Russian by Gazeta.ru.