Above: President Putin and President Donald Trump in dialogue.
Note: The article below makes excellent points about the need for more dialogue between the United States and Russia and more summits between President Trump and President Putin. The author focuses on one of the most important issues between the two largest nuclear powers in the world, nuclear disarmament. There have been proposals between the presidents of Russia and the US in the past to reduce and even eliminate nuclear weapons. While there are less nuclear weapons in the world today than at the peak of the Cold War, dramatic reduction toward the elimination of nuclear weapons is needed. The US should at least stop spending more than a trillion dollars to build new nuclear weapons. Advocates for peace and justice should be urging the two nations to work toward disarmament.
But, there are many issues on which the US and Russia need to be talking. There is the ongoing war in Syria where both nations are playing a major role in continuing the conflict. Trump has talked about leaving Syria, while the Pentagon seems to want to stay. Putin has also said he wants Russia to get out of Syria. Trump and Putin could develop an agreement where both countries leave, urge others like Israel, Saudia Arabia, Turkey and Iran to also leave and let the Syrian people figure out their path forward, with assistance from the world in rebuilding the nation.
Russia borders on North Korea and has an interest in seeing peace in the Korean Peninsula. Russia could play a useful role in pushing a peace agreement between the US and North Korea, signed also by South Korea and China, as well as normalization of relations. And, if the people of the Koreas want unification, aiding that process.
Then, there is the threat of war with Iran and the nuclear agreement there. Again, Russia and the US could play a positive role in moving toward avoiding war with Iran and normalizing relations.
And, on the Russia border is Ukraine where a US coup removed a Russia friendly government, leading to Crimea returning to Russia. Now, the US is sending weapons to Kiev and there is fear of a war between Eastern Ukraine and Kiev. The two leaders could calm that situation.
Beyond militarism, there are a whole host of global problems in the world that need to be confronted around economic inequality, poverty, disease and illness, environmental degradation and climate change, and insecurity on many fronts. Russia and the US building a positive relationship has much positive potential on all those fronts. And, if the US and Russia build a constructive dialogue other nations could be brought in and the world could move from one where the US seeks to be a dominator to a multi-polar world that respects the sovereignty of nations with the US moving from dominator to cooperator, with gradual end of US empire.
Yes, all of this seems impossible right now. How could such a flawed leader as President Trump and an autocrat like President Putin move the world in such positive directions? Thankfully, the impossible has become reality throughout human history. If the people do not organize for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace and the leaders of nation’s do not enter into dialogue and use diplomacy then surely progress will not be made. We will continue to do our job as advocates for transformation and continue to build a mass movement for change which includes a responsibility to push those in power to do their jobs. KZ
THE PUTIN/TRUMP SUMMIT HAD ISSUES INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT THAT WHO DID OR DIDNT HELP TRUMP WIN OFFICE. ISSUES ON WHICH HUMAN SURVIVAL MIGHT DEPEND.
THESE ISSUES DEMAND FOLLOWUP AND FURTHER SUMMITS.
There is much to criticize President Trump for, spanning the gamut from racism to misogyny. There is also much to criticize President Putin for, spanning the gamut from undemocratic practices to running a kleptocracy to human rights.
The Helsinki Summit deserves none of this criticism. It might be criticized for what it failed to discuss, but in the event, it did discuss one item that has evoked existential anxiety ever since 1945, and on which human survival and the survival of what we call civilization may yet depend, namely nuclear weapons.
Had Trump done, as many critics are saying he should have done, the summit would have been over before it even began, and a golden opportunity to remove planetary obliteration from the global agenda would have been gone. One may argue that not enough was made of this opportunity: One may not argue that the opportunity should not have been created or taken. A US-Russia nuclear war, closer now than at any time since 1953, would kill most humans in roughly 90 minutes and leave those who had not been vaporized to freeze in the dark of a nuclear winter.
The significance of a few Russian bots on Facebook, whose final effect on an election outcome we are not even sure of or even some of Putin’s actual crimes against humanity pales into complete insignificance in the light of a meeting that could have taken the prospect of global annihilation off the world’s agenda.
Trump was right to say prior to the summit that his ‘dream’ outcome for the meeting could be peace and the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. To want that is far from ‘treason’. Or if it IS ‘treason’ we need more of it.
As it was, Putin and Trump did say some somewhat helpful if not very revolutionary things about nuclear weapons in their joint press-conference which are reproduced below:
“As major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security. It’s vital — and we mentioned this during the negotiations — it’s crucial that we fine-tune the dialogue on strategic stability and global security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We submitted our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions. We believe it necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military and technical co-operation. This includes the extension of the strategic offensive arms limitation treaty. It’s a dangerous situation with the global American antimissile defense system. It’s the implementation issues with the INF treaty. And, of course, the agenda of non-placement of weapons in space.”
“…But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything.
As President, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct.”
“….Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia affords the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world. I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As President, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.”
“….We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation. I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearization of North Korea and after today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem. Going to work with us and I appreciate that commitment.”
It rather looks, to use Trump’s words, as if some critics of the summit are ‘risking peace in the pursuit of politics’.
If to take a political risk in the pursuit of peace is ‘treason’, please let us have more of it – a lot more of it – and please let us have systematic follow-through.
Trump remarked that:
“Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process but we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought.”
Trump in addition at one point (not in the transcript) remarked that the US had ‘made mistakes’ in its relationship with Russia. Trump is merely saying it like it is (and only says a tenth of it). He has been damned for ‘treason’ for saying this. Please, let’s have more of this kind of ‘treason’ otherwise known as honesty!
On the matter of nuclear weapons in particular, this is very much to the point. What is required are more ‘treason summits’, and the deeper our ‘treason’ to the forces of planetary destruction, the better. There needs to be:
–A planned series of meetings in which matters of nuclear strategic stability are uppermost and in which discussions of electoral interference are off-limits.
–A series of lower-echelon meetings away from immediate public gaze in which nuclear risk reduction, lowering operational readiness of nuclear weapon systems, no-first-use agreements, improved military to military communication, and the implementation of the joint data exchange facility first agreed on in 1998 are not just discussed but implemented
–The creation of a joint task force on the complete abolition of US and Russian nuclear arsenals.
‘Treason’ of this kind could just save humans and human civilization from nuclear destruction.
The prescriptions of some of Trump’s critics, on the other hand, may just take us over the brink into the abyss.