Tags: Trump Administration | Russia | US | Russia | Negotiate

Alfonse M. D'Amato: The US and Russia Should Negotiate Before They Escalate

Image: Alfonse M. D'Amato: The US and Russia Should Negotiate Before They Escalate

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By    |   Saturday, 24 Dec 2016 10:14 AM

Despite positive overtures from both sides during the U.S. election season, the incoming Trump Administration and the Russian regime seem to be on a collision course.

In recent statements issued just a few hours apart, both Mr. Trump and Vladimir Putin committed their governments to large and very expensive nuclear arms buildups. Follow-up remarks by each then doubled down on this war of words.

This comes at a time when both nations are struggling to regain their economic footing, and when the avowed common threat they face is not each other but radical Islamic terrorism. Witness the execution of Russia's Turkish Ambassador, and the Berlin terrorist rampage that is undoubtedly a precursor to other similar lone-wolf attacks in the West, including the U.S.

Given the urgency of the current world situation - and the backdrop of their apparently friendly perception of each other - Presidents Trump and Putin should instead embark on a mutually agreed direction, a sort of antidote to the old cold war dictum of mutually assured destruction.

While the issues surrounding nuclear weapons policy are maddeningly complex, they ultimately reduce to fundamental questions of national intention, aspiration, and self-preservation.

The entire history of nuclear arms negotiation going back to JFK's promotion of the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, through the cold war INF and START nuclear reduction agreements, points to the sober recognition by both the U.S. and Russia that while the two adversaries might never negotiate out of fear, they should never fear to negotiate.

The template for a new Trump-Putin dialog on nuclear arms policy could be the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev Reykjavik summit. While that summit did not reach an agreement, it gave the two leaders the opportunity to explore groundbreaking ideas for slowing nuclear proliferation that led to later agreements. Remember that both Reagan and Gorbachev were under intense domestic pressure not to give up too much to the other side, yet still laid a solid foundation for future nuclear arms reduction.

Because I believe Donald Trump is right when he talks about breaking out of the straitjacket of the Obama administration's aversion to dealing with Russia on a more productive basis, he should act on this instinct and suggest an early meeting with President Putin to lay out areas of potential agreement and cooperation.

These could include developing a strong bi-lateral strategy to combat radical Islamic terrorism, discussing a less confrontational approach to the Syria-Iraq-Iran conflicts, exploring ways to reduce tensions in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, defusing conflict with Ukraine, and dealing with overall nuclear weapons issues, including wild-card nuclear outlaws like North Korea.

The U.S. Presidency is essentially a precious time clock of limited opportunity to achieve breakthrough international agreements. Progress may be incremental, but action need not be. The earlier the talking starts, the sooner the results can flow. Presidents Trump and Putin should cast aside anachronistic protocols and sit down now to lay out a new direction for U.S.-Russia relations that offers the world more security, not less.

Alfonse D’Amato served in the U.S. Senate from 1980 to 1998. He Chaired the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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Politics
Despite positive overtures from both sides during the U.S. election season, the incoming Trump Administration and the Russian regime seem to be on a collision course.
US, Russia, Negotiate
527
2016-14-24
Saturday, 24 Dec 2016 10:14 AM
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