Russia Experts on What the Impeachment Trial Means For Putin

This week, in the Senate, President Trump’s impeachment trial starts in earnest. Russia experts Evelyn Farkas and Dimitri Simes join Christiane to analyze how this affects U.S. relations with Russia.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Dimitri, can I ask you first, because you were at the last big Putin sort of press conference at the end of the year, and you heard him talk about impeachment and about what it meant to him and Russia. Does Russia — does he consider it a problem in terms of U.S.-Russia relations or in terms of, I guess, somebody who he considers friendly to himself, the survivability of President Trump?

DIMITRI SIMES, CEO AND PRESIDENT, THE CENTER OF THE NATIONAL INTEREST: Well, I can ask Putin about the impact of impeachment on U.S.-Russian relations, and I actually was surprised when he said, well, impeachment, it’s just something that is happening in the House. He will not be the president, will not be removed by the Senate, at least Putin said, I don’t think so. So, he expressed relative optimism regarding his ability to work with Trump. But from others in the Russian government, who, have course, here publicly and privately, exactly as you said, that the relationship is very bad, that not much may happen before the end of Trump’s first term. And even if Trump is reelected, they are skeptical that there would be fundamental changes in the relationship.

AMANPOUR: So Dimitri, stand by a moment. I’m going to ask Evelyn Farkas. So, the word from Putin’s Russia is, of course, that they expect impeachment, acquittal, re-election, and that, yes, the relations between the two countries are bad, and perhaps, you know, Russia can’t expect to have a different relationship with the United States until the very end of whatever Trump term. How do you see it, especially put your old hat on as assistant secretary?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA: Yes. I think that Vladimir Putin must be very happy right now, because he is seeing America divided. This process that we’re undergoing right now with impeachment hearings in the Senate — or trial, it is actually going to probably result in the president being let off the hook and in a very partisan fashion. And again, if you remember when President Putin, when the Russians attacked our elections in 2016, it wasn’t necessarily about electing President Trump, it was, first and foremost, about dividing us and defeating the United States, making us weak. And so far, so good for the Kremlin, unfortunately.

About This Episode EXPAND

Experts Evelyn Farkas and Dimitri Simes analyze the impact of President Trump’s impeachment trial on U.S. relations with Russia, Steve Inskeep tells the story of America’s first political power couple and former White House speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz explains what Judaism can teach us in these divisive times.