CROSSTALK: Trump-Putin Helsinki summit: What’s next?
Ever since the Helsinki summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the mainstream-corporate media, well-known Democrats and many highly placed Republicans have been in full-tilt lather against Mr. Trump. He stands accused of every crime in the book, up to and including capital treason.
Mr. Trump’s offense? His persistence to serve the American people rather than the Washington “swamp.” Mr. Trump believes that diplomacy and engagement are preferable to conflict and hostility and he wants not only to make America great again but to make us safer by talking rather than fighting with the only other nuclear superpower on this planet, which is Russia. Fortunately, the people are not buying the anti-Trump hysteria. A recent Gallup poll shows that despite endless force-feeding of Russia, Russia, Russia, its level of public concern among issues facing America is not even 1 percent! Barely an asterisk.The top issue at 22 percent? Immigration Mr. Trump’s strong suit.
It’s time to cut through the blather and look at the Helsinki summit for the yuge plus it was.As Mr. Trump pointed out, the U.S. and Russia control 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. While we can and often do mishandle our policy toward lots of other countries without major consequences, Russia is not one of them.
In the past, the left and liberals used to worry about Republican hawks, but these days it looks like they are ready to sacrifice our country’s security if it helps them to impeach the president.In Helsinki, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin agreed to work toward extension of the START treaty to limit strategic offensive nuclear weapons and to pull the intermediate-range nuclear INF treaty out of its nosedive.
Other critical areas of agreed cooperation include combating Islamic terrorism, mutual protection of cyber-security and stopping nuclear proliferation. They also discussed regulation of global oil and gas markets imagine a U.S.-Russia counterweight to OPEC!
Thorniest are the regional issues. Still, the presidents agreed to cooperate on the Korean peninsula, while agreeing to disagree on Crimea. With respect to east Ukraine, it was subsequently leaked that Mr. Putin had floated the idea of a new referenda in rebel’s areas, but the White House quickly signaled its opposition.Another important development came from the Pentagon, when Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his willingness to meet with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.Perhaps the toughest nut to crack will be Syria, where Russia which is on good terms with both Israel and Iran can broker a deal to avoid a clash on the Golan Heights. As Mr. Trump stated: “President Putin also is helping Israel. We both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu. They would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. In that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel.”
In short, there is good reason to hope the Helsinki summit marks an upward redirection out of the dangerous trough in U.S.-Russia ties in recent years. Even in the face of the 24/7 hate campaign against him, Mr. Trump was bold enough to announce another planned summit in Washington this fall.
It won’t be easy going. While Mr. Putin is unassailable in the Russian political establishment, Mr. Trump remains besieged at home. The Democrats call him a traitor, and even some Republicans denounce him for insufficient fealty to the “intelligence community,” as though Article II of the U.S. Constitution had vested the executive authority in this community, not the president of the United States.
Who stands with Mr. Trump? It looks more and more like only the tens of millions of “deplorables” who voted for him. The more the bipartisan establishment and the fake news rant against Mr. Trump, the more they are sure the president is right.
Mr. Trump continues to believe that good U.S.-Russia relations would benefit America. In 2016 he pledged to achieve that goal and get us out of the pointless and costly wars that have wasted American blood and treasure.
Rare among politicians, he’s keeping his promises. The swamp that has profited so mightily from decades of failed policies is terrified that the gravy train is coming to an end.
As Mr. Trump’s domestic adversaries step up their attacks, it’s more important than ever that those of us who voted for real hope and change rally around him.
One area where Americans can help is to take Mr. Putin up on his offer to engage “experts on bilateral relationship who know history and the background of our relationship. The idea is to create an expert council that would include political scientists, prominent diplomats and former military experts in both countries who would look for points of contact between the two countries. That would look for ways of putting the relationship on the trajectory of growth.”
However, this doesn’t have to be just experts. Americans and Russians from all walks of life can be participants in the post-Helsinki summit movement through academic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges in order to build a positive and mutually beneficial agenda for both nations and mankind.
Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow.