Tags: Donald Trump | Russia | Ukraine | crimea | nato | soviet

Could Trump, Putin End Cold War II?

Could Trump, Putin End Cold War II?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 01:46 PM Current | Bio | Archive

When Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin meet on July 16, they might have an opportunity to put a mutually beneficial end to Cold War II.

The major reasons for the recent Russian-American animosity were Russia's annexation of Crimea and its sending of troops to aid secessionists in neighboring Ukraine. A secondary problem has been the attempt by Russian trolls to manipulate American social media and influence the 2016 elections.

It has not helped that NATO expanded into former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, contrary to what Russian leaders regarded as a previous understanding.

After Russia seized Crimea, a referendum indicated that residents preferred to be part of Russia. But the election was conducted by the Russians and nobody knows how honestly the votes were counted. The voting came after a campaign in which annexation opponents were not allowed to present their case through the media.

In response, the United States and its European allies imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

Although Crimea had been Russian territory since 1783, Nikita Khrushchev transferred it from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. This "goodwill" gesture was politically meaningless since Russia and Ukraine were just regions of the highly centralized U.S.S.R.

Despite the transfer, the Crimean population has remained overwhelming Russian by nationality and language.

When the U.S.S.R. split into 15 independent countries, Crimea's Ukrainian status became a problem, since Crimea houses Russia's naval base on the Black Sea. Russian nervousness about the security of its naval base intensified when the pro-Russian Ukrainian president was overthrown by an uprising early in 2014 and replaced by an anti-Russian leader.

The Russian invasions soon followed.

To end Cold War II something needs to be done about Crimea, and it probably will include international recognition that Crimea is legitimately part of Russia. But Russia must pay a price for this recognition, which should be conditioned on two things:

First: Crimean residents must vote again on whether to be part of Russia, this time with the vote run by and ballots counted by a neutral international organization, and with full freedom of debate and access to media before hand.

Normally, for reasons I have explained elsewhere, voting is an unsatisfactory way to determine which country should govern a particular area, but the Crimean case is probably exceptional. If Mr. Putin objects to a new referendum, Trump should ask him why he is afraid of a fair election.

Second: Russia must permanently remove its "volunteers" currently fighting alongside of so-called secessionists in Ukraine and return all of its military equipment back to Russia, with compliance confirmed by international observers.

If Putin agrees to these conditions, and actually carries them out, the United States would agree to lift all the economic sanctions. Putin would find it useful for Russia to be free from these sanctions.

They have done considerable harm to the country's economy since they were imposed in 2014, and improvements from the previous economic shambles had been Putin's biggest political asset. Financial difficulties recently forced a substantial increase in the retirement age.

Perhaps after withdrawing troops from Ukraine Russia could spend some of its savings from this step to support retirees more adequately.

While this kind of deal could end Cold War II and thaw out Russian-American relations, it would not end all conflicts between these two countries. But international deals rarely solve all problems, and we are fortunate when they can even solve any.

The deal most likely won't end Russian efforts to manipulate American public opinion and influence elections. Fearing that to acknowledge Russian manipulation would undermine the legitimacy of his election, President Trump will not press this issue with Putin.

But even if Mr. Trump felt more secure, there would be no use in bringing this issue up.

No matter what the truth is, Putin would continue denying meddling, and disclosure of evidence proving his mendacity could undermine our ability to collect future intelligence.

In any event, if the U.S. retains a free press, there is no way to prevent other countries from trying to influence voting behavior here.

Foreign meddling does seem unfair. Most governments doing this have centralized media controlled by their current leaders and are immune from retaliatory manipulation by us of their public opinion. Also, their elections are of doubtful meaningfulness in the first place.

But life is tough, and if we are going to protect ourselves against such manipulation we will need to raise the consciousness of our own voters rather than depending on restraint by leaders of other countries.

Increased voter sophistication would be good in any case, since it would reduce manipulation of public opinion by domestic vested interests as well as by unfriendly foreign powers.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published 1981 and his most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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To end Cold War II something needs to be done about Crimea, and it probably will include international recognition that Crimea is legitimately part of Russia. But Russia must pay a price for this recognition.
crimea, nato, soviet
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 01:46 PM
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