Are normal relations with Russia even possible?

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, but I thought one of the good things about his campaign was his promise to try to improve relations with Russia.

Now I wonder whether this was even possible.

President Trump in the Helsinki summit showed himself incapable of engaging in normal diplomacy.

Even if he were, he is locked in to Cold War by Congress and by the Mueller investigation.

I have no liking for Vladimir Putin’s regime, but since Russia is the only country in the world with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the United States, I think the drift toward military confrontation with Russia is dangerous.

Trump in his rhetoric seems to agree.  But his administration has armed Ukraine, continued to deploy nuclear weapons around Russia’s borders, sought an increased military budget agreed to increased sanctions against Russia and kept troops in Syria, which is Russia’s ally.

Either Trump does not understand the implications of what his administration is doing or he Is not in control of his administration.

Probably both are true.

It’s also hard for Trump to justify peaceful co-existence with Russia or North Korea while he is stepping up military operations around the world and flirting with war with Iran and Venezuela.

Since he is ignorant and inexperienced in diplomacy, he would need the help of experts to negotiate successfully.  But he has staffed his administration with war hawks who oppose normalizing relations with Russia.  He fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only one who could have helped him.

He is an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.  He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Even if he were not the person he is, the ongoing Russiagate investigation stands in the way of peace.  So long as Trump and members of his administration remain under suspicion of plotting with Russian agents to rig the 2016 election, it is not politically feasible to treat Russia like a normal country.

When Robert Mueller announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials on the eve of Trump’s departure for Europe, he left Trump with two bad alternatives.  One was to allow Russiagate rather than nuclear disarmament to become the main issue.   The other was to force Trump to make claims about the Mueller investigation that he couldn’t back up, because it isn’t over yet.  Trump fell into both traps.

The timing of Mueller’s announcement was an example of a federal official openly undermining a President’s policy comparable to General MacArthur’s defiance of President Truman over widening the war in Korea.

It’s hard for us liberals and progressives to see this because we don’t regard Trump as a legitimate President, as we do Truman.  There’s an old saying among lawyers, “Hard cases make bad law.”  What it means is that when obeying the letter of the law leads to a bad result, there is a temptation to bend the law.  Among us liberals and progressives, the manifest unfitness of Trump for high office tempts us to elevate the FBI and CIA to a position of authority they’re not entitled to.

Most leaders in Congress are more belligerent than Trump.  They demand more, not less, military action, and less, not more, diplomacy.  They set no limits on his power to start wars, only to initiate peace.  This is true of both parties.  So even if Trump truly wanted peace and even if he knew what he was doing, Congress would prevent it.

U.S. policy should be to renew the START treaty, which calls for continuing reduction of American and Russian nuclear weapons, should be renewed when it expires in 2021, and to reinstate the ABM treaty, which alleviates fears of a nuclear first strike.

Just for the record, I believe in liberal democracy, under the rule of law, and I oppose Vladimir Putin’s ideology of blood-and-soil nationalism.  I am glad I do not live in Russia under Putin’s authoritarian rule.

I think the best way to counteract Putinism and defend liberal democracy is for liberal democrats to adhere to their own professed principles.

I believe accepting the existence of Putin’s Russia is better than having large parts of Russia, the USA and the rest of the world reduced to smouldering radioactive ruins, which is a real possibility.


Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security, an open letter by Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, John Dean, Governor Bill Richardson, Walter Mosley, Michael Moore, Valerie Plame and others.

Russiagate Is Like 9/11 Except It’s Made of Pure Narrative by Caitlin Johnstone.

Detente Bad, Cold War Good by Craig Murray.

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2 Responses to “Are normal relations with Russia even possible?”

  1. whungerford Says:

    I strongly disagree that the Mueller investigation stands in the way of peace. Positive relations with Russia depend on mutual respect for each other. Ignoring Russian hostility contributes nothing to peace and understanding.


  2. Fred Says:

    Look on the bright side. The US and Russia have almost identical pie charts. We have that much in common. We could do something with that.


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