For half a century after the Second World War, the ever-present realization was that should the U.S.-Soviet rivalry ever get out of hand, a nuclear war would likely mean the end of both countries and, possibly, the end of human life itself.
As the former Secretary of Defense William Perry recently stated, “Today, inexplicably to me, we are re-creating the geopolitical hostility of the Cold War and we are doing this without any serous public discussion, or any real understanding of the consequences of these actions: We are sleepwalking into a new Cold War, and there is a very real danger we will blunder into a nuclear war.”
Indeed, in some ways this second Cold War is even more dangerous than the first one. The instincts of restraint and prudence that had been built up over decades of confrontation have atrophied. While both countries still maintain massive nuclear arsenals, new military technology has continued to make rapid progress in such areas as hypersonic weapons and cyber-warfare. The reckless belief that a fatal first strike on an electronically “blinded” opponent might be successful, and might possibly be kept non-nuclear, is all too tempting to war planners.
So, what must be done to find the way out of this most dangerous situation as expeditiously and safely as possible?
In my opinion the initiative should come from Washington as Moscow was ready for U.S.–Russia rapprochement a long time ago, but it was continuously and largely ignored.
Starting with Mikhail Gorbachev, all Russian leaders expressed desire for a strong political, military and economic alliance with the United States, but while Ronald Reagan and to some extent George H.W. Bush took it seriously, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama operated on the assumption of the unipolar world with the absolute U.S. domination where there was no role for Russia or for considering its legitimate security interests.
There is no point to list Moscow’s grievances as no one in Washington cares. The most common narrative here is that Vladimir Putin is an enemy of the United States and a huge problem for his neighbors and his own people. He has meddled in our elections, invaded Georgia and Ukraine, and has backed the dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The Russians might have a point when they say that all these actions were the reaction to the U.S. hegemonic policy which started at the time when Russia was lying in ruins and did not threaten anyone. In the words of George Kennan, “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era,” but it happened anyway. For Moscow, the decision to incorporate Georgia and Ukraine into NATO became a symbolic security “red line” which must not be crossed.
If one compares the numbers of dead, wounded and refugees caused by the military actions of U.S. and NATO under the banner of promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East with the numbers of victims in Georgia and Ukraine, the results would not be very congratulatory for the West.
In addition, witnessing the political circus which is going in Washington, one can hardly take seriously the continuous declaration of the superiority of our values and the moral right to promote them around the world, especially with weapons.
Americans voted for Donald Trump not only for economic reasons, but because they also favored his pledge to lead the world by example and not by the military adventures — but this pledge has not become a reality yet.
As the head of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, Matt Rojansky is saying “when it comes to Russia, there simply is no longer room for the pragmatism that has been at the very core of our American worldview, and that ensured our survival and success despite half a century of Cold War. This is not who we are as Americans. This is not how the good guys behave. And, most importantly, this cannot end well.”
The latest polls show President Trump has a mandate from American people to overcome the fierce resistance of the political swamp and the media and start serious negotiations with Vladimir Putin in search for a mutually acceptable compromise.
Indeed, according to a Rasmussen poll 52 percent of likely U.S. voters agree with president that “… having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset to the world, and an asset to our country, not a liability.” Just 27 percent disagree, and another 21 percent are undecided. Moreover, 76 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of conservatives, and 51 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party agree with the statement.
Much as Ronald Reagan believed that the only way to escape the looming nuclear war disaster was to work with communist U.S.S.R., Mr. Trump feels the same way about working with post-communist Russia, and now is the time for him to move from words to action.
⦁ Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow.
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