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An Agenda for the Trump-Putin Summit

June 29, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump will meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin next
month in Helsinki, Finland. President Trump long sought this summit
and talking is better than silence. However, without a change in
U.S. policy it isn’t clear what positives will result.

Much of Washington has fixated on the Russian Federation as
America’s most dangerous enemy. Democrats who dismissed Mitt Romney
when he fingered Moscow in 2012 now treat the White House as
Russian-occupied territory. Republicans outraged by any nation
which resists U.S. authority see Putin as a leader of the global
resistance. American policymakers bizarrely treat Russia as the
threat it wishes to be.

The president should approach the summit with a realistic
assessment of Moscow’s capabilities and intentions. Putin is no
friend of Western-style liberalism, but then, many U.S. allies are
no less authoritarian. There is no evidence that he bears any
ideological animus toward America or Europe. KGB officers were
among the most worldly and cynical Soviet officials. Although Putin
regrets the geopolitical wreckage left by the USSR’s collapse, he
has done little to recreate the Evil Empire. Retaking Crimea and
gaining influence in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the Donbass don’t
count for much.

What Moscow views as
offenses might not justify its actions, but its bill of particulars
certainly helps explain Russia’s aggressiveness.

Putin’s policies suggest that his ambitions are those of a
modern-day czar. A globe-spanning empire is unrealistic and
unnecessary. Instead, he insists on respect for his nation’s
interests, expects secure borders, seeks to deter potential
military threats, and desires to sit in global councils of power.
Nothing suggests plans for aggression against Europe. And the
Europeans don’t believe so either: even the countries squealing for
U.S. troops spend barely two percent of GDP on their militaries,
ludicrous levels if they really fear attack.

The United States might prefer the embarrassingly weak Russia of
the 1990s, but it is gone forever. Moscow no longer is a
superpower-it lacks the necessary population and economy. Russia
is, however, capable of asserting itself, as evidenced by its
confrontational policy toward Georgia and Ukraine. Yet even there
the Putin government’s ambitions were limited: seize control of
select territories and freeze conflicts to prevent the two nations’
admission to NATO. In this Putin’s behavior has been ugly but
effective, and no worse than that of such U.S. allies as Saudi
Arabia, which is waging a brutal and self-serving war, with
American support, against Yemen.

While many in the West deride Moscow’s security fears,
that perspective is easier to maintain with America’s history
than Russia’s history. Add to that Washington’s
widespread attempts at regime change, support for “color
revolutions,” and calculated mendacity concerning NATO
expansion: Russian skepticism …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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