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Like Eisenhower, Trump must forge ahead on path toward peace with Russia

Despite setbacks and obstacles, there remains no survivable alternative to dialogue between Washington and Moscow

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(The National Interest) – On the Washington Post op-ed page in October 2017, Mikhail Gorbachev urged “reversing the downward spiral in U.S.-Russian relations” that now dangerously imperils world order. He entreated our leaders “to return to sanity” and initiate a “full-scale summit on the entire range of issues,” focusing especially on controlling weapons of mass destruction.

Gorbachev’s clarion call harkened to a very similar plea by President Dwight D. Eisenhower almost sixty-five years ago when U.S. relations with the USSR were even more fraught with danger than they are today with Russia. In a remarkable speech titled The Chance for Peace, which he delivered on April 16, 1953, six weeks after Stalin’s death, Eisenhower urged the two superpowers to radically change direction. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired,” Eisenhower declared, “signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” He advocated a reduction in “the burden of armaments now weighing upon the world,” and offered to negotiate with the Soviet Union over the size of both countries’ military forces. For Eisenhower, “this [current massing of armaments] was not a way of life at all” and he challenged the Kremlin to wage “a new kind of war, . . . a total war, not upon any human enemy, but upon the brute forces of poverty and need.”

The historic context in which this speech was delivered made this a true act of political courage. McCarthyism was assuming increasing virulence, the Soviet Union’s repressive domination of Eastern Europe was at its height, and Cold War tensions remained very high, with the Korean War still ongoing. As noted by scholar Joshua Rubenstein in his book, The Last Days of Stalin, “[f]or many of Eisenhower’s admirers this speech remains among his most politically significant, ‘certainly one of the highlights of his presidency,’[quoting a top aide]. . .The American press responded [to Eisenhower’s proposals] with deep enthusiasm. Newsweek said that it ‘lifted hearts in the entire free world.’” (pages 173–74)

Like Eisenhower six decades earlier, President Trump also advocated during his campaign that this nation should adopt an entirely new approach to Russia. Citing the trillions of dollars expended in the Iraqi war and other foreign initiatives, President Trump argued that the U.S. should jettison the foreign policy of his predecessors which so antagonized President Putin and his cohorts. Instead, monies devoted to wasteful wars and attempts at regime changes should be redirected to U.S. domestic needs, including modernizing infrastructure and assisting U.S. workers adjust to new economic realities. Indeed, when candidate Trump became president-elect last November, many hoped for the emergence of a new, constructive and amicable relationship with Putin’s Russia.

Sadly, as the first anniversary of his election approaches, relations with Russia continue to deteriorate and no near term improvements appear possible. In the view of many, the July vote in Congress (419 to 3 in the House and 98 to 2 in the Senate), stripping President Trump of discretion to reduce sanctions against Russia, effectively freezes the U.S.-Russian relationship. There is the real possibility that the United States will only regain the ability to reverse the current debilitating “downward spiral,” as Gorbachev wrote, when the Department of Justice concludes its inquiry; and even then, only if Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation vindicates President Trump of complicity with Russian operatives or of any other alleged illegality relating to Russia. The resulting paralysis in the relationship could last for many more months, if not years.

We believe that such a stalemate must be avoided at all costs, and is not preordained. There is too much to lose by failing to address the consequences of a continuing drift in U.S.-Russian relations, allowing menacing problems to fester. These include: the real potential for accidental war inadvertently triggered by the lack of effective government-to-government dialogues at military and civilian levels, with catastrophic results; military confrontations in Ukraine involving the U.S. or its allies, with unforeseen escalations; destabilizing measures by Russia to further lower the threshold of its own planned use of nuclear weapons; and a host of other very significant matters that require priority attention. Even entirely peaceful collaborations may fall by the wayside, as evidenced by the Russian Duma’s recent threat to prohibit the United States from accessing the International Space Station on Russian space vehicles, the only means now available to do so.

The following path is offered as a way out of the present—and very ominous—impasse:

First, the White House should actively and creatively reach out to congressional leaders of both parties and forge a consensus on proposals to be advanced in negotiations with President Putin. The distrust that now exists in Washington can be assuaged, at least in part, by means of a jointly conceived program for approaching the Russians. From the perspective of the United States, the various parties are generally on the same page respecting U.S. objectives—or can be led to that point—on most of the substantive issues to be resolved.

Second, President Trump should publicly announce an overarching vision for our relationship with Russia, incorporating many elements of President Eisenhower’s courageous “Chance for Peace” speech. “Turning swords into plowshares” themes may serve to unify, and even excite, the disparate, and deeply divided, elements of American society. Liberal Democrats, traditional Republicans, and evangelical supporters of President Trump will likely find inspiration in Eisenhower’s stirring rhetoric of the 1950s, as adapted to current circumstances. Announcing such a policy can be anticipated to “lift hearts in the entire free world.”

Bold steps such as these have been taken by President Trump’s predecessors in dramatically changing our relationship with Russia, even when mutual mistrust was at a high level, and have achieved considerable successes. In 1972, President Nixon led the way in reducing nuclear arsenals through the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement of 1972. This was accompanied by the landmark U.S.-Soviet Trade Agreement and the creation of a Joint Commercial Commission, both of which ushered in a new era of economic cooperation. After President Reagan’s groundbreaking meetings with Gorbachev in Geneva and Reykjavik, a momentous treaty was signed in 1987 to eliminate intermediate and shorter-range missiles. This was followed during the first Bush, Clinton, second Bush and Obama administrations by treaties to impose further and very substantial limitations on both countries’ nuclear arsenals. As highlighted by President Eisenhower, who worked with the USSR as an ally in World War II when our soldiers met as “triumphant comrades in arms,” both Russia and America have everything to gain by redirecting resources to peaceful purposes, and joining together “to turn the black tide of [current] events. If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages would be harsh and just.”

Third, Gorbachev’s call for a summit between the United States and Russia should be seriously pursued, and the scope should be broadened to encompass major issues now burdening the relationship. Gorbachev recognized: “It will not be easy to cut through the logjam of issues on both sides. But neither was our dialogue easy three decades ago. It has its critics and detractors, who tried to derail it.” The agenda should include efforts to resolve the 2014 Ukrainian and Crimean crises, as well as newly injected concerns arising from Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral process.

Fourth, shortly after President Trump was elected, the authors of this article set forth specific proposals on how to resolve, or at least contain, the Ukrainian and Crimean problems. Those proposals still remain quite viable, in our view, and merit further review. The essential features were: (a) that Russia and the West “agree to disagree” for the indefinite future on the diplomatic status of Crimea; this was the essential status accorded to the Baltic States from 1940 through the demise of the USSR, and permitted peaceful coexistence throughout the Cold War era; (b) that the status quo in Donbas as part of Ukraine continue, with an effectively enforced ceasefire; and (c) that a multibillion dollar aid package be assembled from international sources directed to economic recovery in Ukraine.

Fifth, as part of the summit between Presidents Trump and Putin, a full and frank exchange on Russian involvement in U.S. domestic elections must be addressed. Rules should be adopted to avoid undue interference in the internal affairs of each country, with reciprocity and preservation of the integrity of each country’s body politic as the agreed-upon objective.

In approaching this issue, which has destabilized the relationship so bitterly in the post-election period, the United States must maintain a proper perspective. In the past, both the United States and Russia have interfered covertly, and sometimes publicly, in the political affairs of other nations when they deemed strategic interests were at stake. In that regard, the United States has expended billions of dollars since the collapse of the Soviet Union in assisting a network of nongovernment organizations in Russia in promoting freedom of press and speech, religious tolerance, an independent judiciary, absence of corruption, and other values long prized in Western societies. Americans viewed such involvement as benign, motivated by humanitarian concerns. However, fostering such democratic values in Russia has not always been welcomed by many quarters within the Russian establishment, who attribute malign motives to the United States, including intrusive meddling in Russia’s internal affairs and suspicions of regime change. As Graham Allison and Dimitri Simes noted in their analysis, which was published in the National Interest, as “a recent superpower still nostalgic for its past glory, Russia is particularly sensitive to efforts to shape its domestic process.”

Gorbachev also noted in his recent op-ed piece that when “[r]elations between the two nations are in a severe crisis . . . there is one well-tested means available for accomplishing a [way out]”—that is, to initiate “a dialogue based on mutual respect.” President Eisenhower similarly observed: “none of these issues, great or small” separating the United States and Russia “is insoluble.” “[T]he hunger for peace is in the hearts of all peoples—those of Russia . . . no less than of our own country.”

President Trump and President Putin now confront the challenge to heed these words and to lead their nations—and the world—to a better place.

by Jeffrey Burt, James Hitch, Peter Pettibone and Thomas Shillinglaw

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops occupying Idlib will take control over that land, and have responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet.

Eric Zuesse

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As I recommended in a post on September 10th, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan jointly announced on September 17th, “We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20km wide,” which compares to the Korean DMZ’s 4-km width. I had had in mind the Korean experience, but obviously Putin and Erdogan are much better-informed about the situation than I am, and they have chosen a DMZ that’s four to five times wider. In any case, the consequences of such a decision will be momentous, unless U.S. President Donald Trump is so determined for there to be World War III as to stop at nothing in order to force it to happen no matter what Russia does or doesn’t do.

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops who now are occupying Idlib province of Syria will take control over that land, and will thus have the responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet: Idlib. It contains the surviving Syrian Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters, including all of the ones throughout Syria who surrendered to the Syrian Army rather than be shot dead on the spot by Government forces.

For its part, the U.S. Government, backed by its allies and supported in this by high officials of the United Nations, had repeatedly threatened that if there occurs any chemical-weapons attack, or even any claimed chemical-weapons attack, inside Idlib, the U.S. and its allies will instantaneously blame the Syrian Government and bomb Syria, and will shoot down the planes of Syria and of Russia that oppose this bombing-campaign to conquer or ‘liberate’ Syria from its Government. The U.S. has announced its determination to protect what one high U.S. official — who is endorsing what Trump is doing there — “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” He admits it, but he wants to protect them from being bombed by Syria and by Russia.

During recent weeks, the U.S. military has increasingly said that even if the jihadists they’ve been assisting to assemble the materials for a chemical-weapons attack fail to carry it out or to stage one, any attempt by Syrian and Russian forces to destroy the jihadists (which the U.S. side calls ‘rebels’) in Idlib will be met with overwhelming U.S.-and-allied firepower. That would spark WW III, because whichever side — Russia or U.S. — loses in the Syrian battlefield will nuclear-blitz-attack the other side so as to have the lesser damage from the nuclear war and thus (in military terms) ‘win’ WW III, because the blitz-attack will destroy many of the opposite side’s retaliatory weapons. In a nuclear war, the first side to attack will have a considerable advantage — reducing the number of weapons the other side can launch.

If, on the other hand, the DMZ-plan works, then Turkey’s forces will be responsible for vetting any of Idlib’s residents who try to leave, in order to prohibit jihadists and their supporters from leaving. Once that task (filtering out the non-dangerous inhabitants and retaining in Idlib only the jihadists and their supporters) is done, the entire world might be consulted on whether to exterminate the remaining residents or to set them free to return to the countries from which they came or to other countries. Presumably, no country would want those ‘refugees’. That would answer the question.

America’s Arab allies, the oil monarchies such as the Sauds who own Saudi Arabia and the Thanis who own Qatar, and which have funded Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, would then be put on a spot, because if they say “Exterminate them!” then their clergy who have provided the moral imprimatur upon those families’ ownership of those nations, will either be in rebellion or else will themselves become overthrown either by their own followers or else by their monarch — overthrown from below or from above.

Alternatively, after Turkey’s forces in Idlib will have allowed release from Idlib of all who will be allowed out, Syria’s and Russia’s bombers will simply go in and slaughter the then-surrounded jihadists and take upon themselves the responsibility for that, regardless of what the leaders of the U.S. and its allied governments might say.

On the night of September 17th in Syria, there were missile-attacks “from the sea” against several Syrian cities; and those attacks could have come from either Israel’s or America’s ships, or from other U.S.-allied ships. Russian Television bannered, “Russian plane disappears from radars during Israeli attack on Syria’s Latakia – MoD” and reported:

A Russian military Il-20 aircraft with 14 service members on board went off the radars during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Air traffic controllers at the Khmeimim Air Base “lost contact” with the aircraft on Wednesday evening, during the attack of Israeli F-16 fighters on Latakia, said the MOD.Russian radars also registered the launch of missiles from a French frigate in the Mediterranean on the evening of September 17. …
The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of the Idlib province

If the missiles were authorized by President Trump, then WW III has already begun in its pre-nuclear stage. However, if the attacks were launched by Israel’s Netanyahu, and/or by France’s Macron, without U.S. authorization, then the U.S. President might respond to them by siding against that aggressor(s) (and also against what he used to call “Radical Islamic Terrorists”), so as to prevent a nuclear war.

Late on September 17th, Al Masdar News bannered “NATO warships move towards Syrian coast” and reported “The NATO flotilla cruising off the Syrian coast reportedly consists of a Dutch frigate, the De Ruyter, a Canadian frigate, the Ville de Quebec, and a Greek cruiser, the Elli.” Al Qaeda and ISIS have influential protectors.

Ultimately, the decision will be U.S. President Trump’s as to whether he is willing to subject the planet to WW III and to its following nuclear winter and consequent die-off of agriculture and of everyone, in order to ‘win’ a nuclear war, such as America’s aristocracy has especially championed since the year 2006. The nuclear-victory concept is called “Nuclear Primacy” — the use of nuclear weapons so as to win a nuclear war against Russia, instead of to prevent a nuclear war. That concept’s predecessor, the “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “M.A.D.” meta-strategy, predominated even in the U.S. until 2006. Trump will have to decide whether the purpose of America’s nuclear-weapons stockpiles is to prevent WW III, or is to win WW III.

In Russia, the purpose has always been to have nuclear weapons in order to prevent WW III. But America’s President will be the person who will make the ultimate decision on this. And Idlib might be the spark. Netanyahu or Macron might be wanting to drag the U.S. into war even against Russia, but the final decision will be Trump’s.

The ultimate question is: How far will the U.S. go in order to continue the U.S. dollar as being the overwhelmingly dominant global currency?

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Russian MoD: Il-20 downed by Syrian missile after attacking Israel’s F-16s used it as cover

Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces.

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Russia has stated that it “reserves right to response” after claiming that Israel’s actions led to downing of Il-20 by Syrian S-200 missiles.

The Russian military accused their Israeli counterparts for causing the downing of a Russian Il-20 plane by the Syrian air defense forces, which were responding to an Israeli air raid on Latakia.

Via RT


The Russian military say the Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events, which led to the shooting down of a Russian Il-20 plane by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

On Monday evening four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean, a statement by the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday. The Israeli warplanes came at a small altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region”, it said.

The military said the French Navy’s frigate “Auvergne” as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area of the Israeli operation.

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” the statement said.

The Russian ministry stressed that the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, which didn’t stop them from “the provocation”. Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,” the statement said.

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