- Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Let’s assume that after Special Counsel Robert Mueller and numerous Congressional committees have spent tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars they finally find smoking gun, i.e. indisputable proof of the Kremlin’s hack into the Clinton campaign’s and the DNC’s emails, plus other attempts to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Then what? On top of steps taken so far on the assumption Russia is guilty – piling on economic sanctions, confiscating diplomatic property, and conducting informational warfare – what else is to be done short of declaring war?

For now ignore the reports, including those coming from top American IT and security experts, that raise serious doubts about “Russian hacking” – let’s assume all the accusations are true. Since everyone (except Hillary Clinton) agrees that Russian interference did not change the election’s outcome and no one, including the most adamant Putin-haters who believe that he is the ultimate devil of modern times, wants to go to war with nuclear Russia the logical choice would be for a high-ranking U.S. delegation composed of top political leaders and intelligence experts to enter into dialogue with their Russian counterparts.

One of the first items on the agenda of such a group would be to work out a treaty prohibiting future interference in one another’s elections, or even in any foreign elections.

The fact is, whatever Moscow might have done, the U.S. hardly has clean hands. Washington has meddled quite a bit in other countries’ elections, including Russia’s.  There are numerous reports confirming that.  For example, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, “The U.S. has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries – it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.”

As it happened, in 1996 I had a chance to observe American meddling directly as part of a delegation to Moscow of the Free Congress Foundation headed by the late Paul Weyrich and Vice President Dan Quayle. At that time Quayle was running his own presidential bid and wanted to familiarize himself with Russia, which he had never visited before. We stayed in the same President Hotel where an American consulting team was trying hard to swing the election for President Boris Yeltsin, whose ratings were in single digits.

The extent of their meddling was laughably obvious. During that trip we met with almost all of the Russia’s ten presidential candidates and most of them openly complained to us about American interference on behalf of Yeltsin. Add to that the over 10 billion of dollars in loans transferred to Russia in the middle of the campaign to boost Yeltsin’s standing, plus undisclosed amounts of cash for his team.

So, if both countries have dirty hands why don’t we agree not to do it again? And if a U.S.-Russia treaty can be worked out why not suggest to other countries join in it as well?  Moreover, why not submit it to the United Nations for a vote and see who objects? 

We should also listen to people like former Senator Sam Nunn and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who say that Washington and Moscow must recognize that despite their deep differences, there is an urgent need to address areas of common interest, chief among them reducing nuclear and other military risks and preventing catastrophic terrorist attacks. 

As Nunn and Moniz observe: “U.S.-Russia relations are in a deep ditch. This is a serious challenge for our governments and a danger to the people of both nations and indeed the world. Getting to safer ground requires urgent action to establish close cooperation between the Trump administration and Congress – by creating a new bipartisan liaison group modeled on one established in the 1980s.”

As is well known this joint Executive-Congressional liaison group did quite well in the 1980s, so why not try to repeat its success? Congress, with its miserable 15 percent approval rating, could for a change do something useful and, instead of undermining President Trump’s agenda, start working to benefit the U.S. national interests.

As it happens, when this issue was going to print, two American astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba, together with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, were launched on a mission to the International Space Station using Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft. Through their work these brave men are sending back to the earth the strong message that it is the time for politicians to stop pushing us to war and concentrate instead on a positive agenda in U.S.-Russia relations thus benefiting both nations and mankind.

Edward Lozansky is President of the American University in Moscow. His latest book “Operation Elbe” describing joint U.S. – Russia anti-terror efforts is available on Amazon.

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