From Krist Boardman:
The last truly big time businessman from the West to make lemon out of lemonade in relations with Russia was Armand Hammer. This iconoclastic businessman at the time of the Russian Revolution was soon talking to Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the post-czarist Soviet state shortly after 1917, and his first venture in Russia was a pencil factory. Hammer remained in Russia until 1930, also distributing pharmaceuticals and wheat during the post Revolution famine. Having grown up in New York City and schooled in socialist and communist thought, Hammer understood the ideals of the Russian Revolution and yet as a businessman he was able to argue the capitalist business perspective with Lenin. Then when Nixon and Kissinger negotiated detente with Brezhnev in the 1970s, as an older man Hammer’s company, Occidental Petroleum, entered the Russian market. This company bartered raw materials and finished product with the Soviets on a massive scale.
As detente progressed a number of other companies entered the Soviet and subsequent Russian marketplace, and some have remained there since. The breakup of the Soviet Union led to the privatization of state enterprises in Russia and this has revealed the proclivities of the Russian regime for big state monopolies with close ties to Russian leaders particularly Vladimir Putin. It is within this atmosphere in Russia that Donald Trump has been trolling for business opportunities. While little has been revealed about these efforts, Trump’s election as the next President of the United States and his rapprochement with Putin, contrasted with the Clinton-neocon talk of war, has opened opportunities for new relationships with Russia that may very well take the United States in a decidedly different direction.
Putin’s preference for Trump over Clinton is no secret. For one, Trump’s view of NATO’s role vis-a-vis Russia is not so adversarial as Clinton’s. Just what is driving this tendency is still conjectural; it may be that Trump sees business opportunities that the Clinton camp did not, and it may also be Trump’s admiration of another strong man whose devotion to democratic rights is weak. Or Trump’s view may be that it is not in the U.S. or free world’s interest to pursue a warlike policy.
One thing should be certain. Trump’s new role as President will be constrained by laws that limit his powers to conduct business with the Russian state. There are already other areas that are undergoing scrutiny and it will be interesting to learn whether and how Trump’s many business interests will conflict with his new role as chief executive of the United States. At the same time his businessman’s perspective may cause him to conceptualize hitherto unknown opportunities for business with Russia. This could lead to some very interesting negotiations between the two heads of state that may result in some striking and welcome changes.
If tensions are reduced, and Trump achieves some of his reforms of the financing of NATO, some of the funds recovered from armaments could be redirected toward new business challenges that could manufacture new jobs in the U.S. Similarly, as Trump has maintained an open mind toward various Middle East hot spots, other opportunities may evolve. It is still too early to tell what actually could happen. But it will be interesting to find out.