Faced with repeated questions on Russia amid increasing calls from some members of Congress for a hard line on Moscow, President Donald Trump outlined what is truly at stake with U.S.-Russian relations at his Feb. 16 press conference, and that is avoiding nuclear war.
“If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along, and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are they,” Trump noted.
Together, the U.S. and Russia own about 94 percent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons — about 7,000 apiece — enough to kill everyone many times over.
Here, Trump was warning that even after the Cold War the threat of nuclear war is still very real.
“I’ve been briefed, and I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say it, because anyone that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other,” Trump warned.
“They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we,” he repeated, adding he hopes to ease current tensions, “if we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Trump also emphatically defended his proposed engagement with Moscow as not just for the sake of the American people, but for the sake of us all.
“It would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia but then we’re not going to make a deal. Now, I don’t know that we’re going to make a deal, I don’t know. We might, we might not, but it would be much easier for me to be so tough — the tougher I am on Russia the better — but you know what, I want to do the right thing for the American people, and to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world,” Trump declared.
In other words, Trump proposes détente with Moscow not because of shared values or a fondness for the leadership there per se, but because of common interests. Namely, mutual survival in averting nuclear war. The basis for cooperation, for Trump, is in its necessity, for the continued survival of humanity.
That is why this whole fake news business on Trump and Russia right now is so dangerous. For example, the ridiculous story that the Trump campaign supposedly worked as Russian agents to engage in espionage to put the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta emails on Wikileaks. Or the nonsensical allegations against former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn that he was working as a Russian agent to bring an end to sanctions against Moscow during the Trump transition period.
It is yellow journalism at its worst. It’s totally false, but its continued drumbeat of reporting is poisoning the possibility of peace. And it’s time to knock it off. Things are escalating rapidly, for example, in Ukraine where the civil war is worsening.
When asked about reports of a Russian spy ship spotted off the east coast of the U.S., Trump implied that the current foolish allegations about Russia were having an impact, “If you were Putin right now, you would say, hey, we’re back to the old games with the United States, there’s no way Trump can ever do a deal with us… because it’s politically not popular for me to make a deal.”
Therefore, it’s a most dangerous political game being played by Trump’s political foes on this issue. The Democrat opposition, Senate Republican hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the media with its irresponsible reporting on Trump and Russia.
Pushing that false dossier around Washington, D.C. throughout 2016 was destructive. And now it’s getting out of control — making war between the two nuclear powers more likely.
For Trump to be able to calm things down, this stuff needs to stop. It’s becoming a credible threat to national security. If the administration is in a position to prove these allegations are false, it should do so immediately. If the transcript on Flynn talk with ambassador is benign, release portions that need not be classified. Now that he is in office, Trump and his intelligence team should have access to all of the intelligence that exonerates him. This story needs to be put to bed.
After Trump was declared the winner of the election early in the morning on Nov. 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Trump his congratulations and his hope that the crisis in U.S.-Russian relations over Syria and Ukraine could begin to come to an end.
“[Trump] spoke about resuming and restoring relations with Russia. We understand the way to that will be difficult, taking into account the current state of degradation of relations between the U.S. and Russia,” Putin said on Russian television, adding, “Russia is ready and wants to restore the fully-fledged relations with the U.S. I repeat we understand this will be difficult, but we are ready to play our part in it.”
Afterward, the outgoing Obama administration rapidly escalated matters, continuing to assert — but not proving — that Russia somehow had hacked the election. And then slapping sanctions on Moscow. And then surveilling Flynn apparently without a warrant and then leaking his conversations with the Russian ambassador to create the appearance of a quid pro quo.
It was all nuts. An attempt to weaken Trump and to wreck the possibility of his proposed détente. The work of fools.
Fortunately, despite the current escalation, with renewed fighting in Ukraine and the naval incidents, Trump says he is still committed to his policy, because the stakes are so high.
“Maybe I’m not going to be able to do a deal with Russia, but at least I will have tried,” he said. For all our sakes, the American people, including Trump’s political opponents, should hope he succeeds. All of our lives may very well depend on it.