Suren Sargsyan

The US Presidential Elections and Armenia

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The United States will hold its 60th presidential election on November 5, 2024, that is, about one year from now. The winner of the 2024 presidential election will be sworn into office on January 20, 2025. Given the specifics of the US elections, the main candidates have already started their campaigns, meeting with voters, mobilizing supporters, as well as attracting financial resources. Moreover, there have already been candidates who have not only managed to announce their participation, but also announced that they decided not to continue the race because their time has not yet come (for example, the 48th Vice President Mike Pence made such a statement).

Currently there are many presidential candidates from the Democratic Party, including the current President Joe Biden who is a front runner. From the GOP, there are 8 candidates fighting in this presidential campaign. Though Trump is the leading candidate of the party, Ron DeSantis follows the lead. Trump’s support among Republicans has reached 51% according to Reuters/Ipsos polls of September 8-14 and DeSantis is around 40 percentage points behind the former president in these polls.

Though there are several presidential candidates from both parties it is predicted that the main battle is going to be held between the current president, Joe Biden, and the former President Donald Trump. Even though both of them are considered to be the most popular presidential candidates in the race, we should bear in mind that each of them have apparent weaknesses that may lead to failure. Biden’s critics claim that he is too old to run for another presidential term. The president will turn 81 during the election period. He is now the oldest president in American history and, if elected, will be 86 years old by the end of his second term, about 9 years older than Ronald Reagan, by the end of his own term in 1989. Besides, Biden is under the risk of being impeached as formally initiated by the House Republicans because of his son’s controversial business dealings as well as other issues.

Trump, who will be 78 during the election period, will finish his term at the age of 82 if elected. In addition, he entered this election campaign with about 100 criminal charges against him in 4 different states, which is naturally a disturbing circumstance. A question arises. Will possible convictions affect Trump’s chances of becoming president? In fact, even if found guilty, Trump will be able to continue the fight for the presidency (but probably won’t be able to vote in his home state of Florida). The Constitutional requirements to become a president are simple: a person has to be 35 years old, a natural-born citizen of the United States and a resident of the US for at least 14 years. There is nothing in the Constitution suggesting that a criminal record or imprisonment can be an obstacle to assuming the office of the president. And there have never been any precedents like this case.

As for the battle between the current and former presidents, it is important to mention that a November survey of the New York Times put Donald Trump ahead of Biden in five out of six key battleground states. Some days later another swing-state poll found Trump leading in six out of seven races. Stack Data Strategy which made a full state-by-state forecast found that Trump is ahead of Biden in the electoral college, however is narrowly losing the popular vote.

What matters to Armenia in US presidential elections is how the results are going to affect US foreign policy towards the South Caucasus region and Armenia itself. The outcome of the elections concerns the whole world as it is going to shape US foreign policy for the upcoming four years. The change of administration means the change of policy and priorities, consequently leading to impacts on a larger geopolitical scale.

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The first important issue that could be affected by the change or continuation of the current administration is the Russian-Ukrainian war. It goes without saying that the increasing tension between the West and Russia is having a direct negative impact on security affairs and economic situation in the world, and definitely in Armenia. Undoubtedly, it would have been much better for Armenia if it weren’t in the crossroads of these mutually exclusive interests. In the long run anti-Russian sanctions could further harm Armenia, given its dependence on Russian gas, membership in Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization and the intertwined economies of Armenia and Russia. While Armenia is able to somehow benefit from the financial flows bypassing Russia, it might not be the case in the future as there have already been a number of warnings from Washington.

In case Trump wins the 2024 presidential elections, the Ukrainian factor may lose its high importance in Washington leading to some decrease of tension in the US-Russian relations. But not significantly. Trump is an advocate of ending the war and sitting at the negotiations table. At the same time, Trump promises to end the war in 24 hours. It seems that the only way to do it is to stop supporting Ukraine financially which will leave no choice for Ukraine but to negotiate with Russians. To achieve this goal the US will have to ease up its policy towards Russia, including elimination of some of the sanctions to bring it to the negotiation table too. In general Trump has always been vocal about the need to cooperate with Russia as well as to stop the war. There is going to be domestic pressure against Trump when he attempts to implement his plans, but it is going to be his last presidential term so we might assume he has nothing to lose and would probably push hard for the accomplishment of his aims. In case he succeeds and the US starts easing sanctions on Russia, other states, especially those who were not enthusiastic about the imposition of sanctions in the first place, will follow. Easing sanctions will in turn positively impact and lessen the tension against Armenia.

Another important issue concerns US policy towards Iran, Armenia’s immediate neighbor. Trump is going to pursue a tougher policy than Biden in line with his historic “Israel first in the Middle East” policy. Surely, any actions targeted against Iran, be it military or economic sanctions, is not within Armenia’s interests. Were US-Iran relations to be regularized, Armenia would benefit economically and militarily. Unfortunately, such a perspective seems vague.

Hence, Armenia should be able to correctly maneuver through all the international processes, trying to mitigate future challenges by being prepared to them.

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