- Monday, June 11, 2018

Today, June 12, 2018, President Donald Trump meets with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

This is good news. However, for U.S. national security what will be even more important is a Trump summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When the prospect of such a meeting was recently floated in the media and by the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow Jon Huntsman the usual suspects went into convulsions. Critics claim the main beneficiary of any summit would be Putin since it would boost his popularity while America gains nothing. 

Some say that only when Putin changes his behavior and begins acting like a civilized human being can he be treated to a photo opportunity with the American president.

But a U.S.-Russia summit isn’t a reward for Putin, who does not need any kind of legitimacy from Washington. Opinion polls, the accuracy of which no one disputes, show that not only in his country but around the world Putin has popular backing few western leaders can come close to.

As any unbiased observer can tell, western sanctions, demonizing Putin, and attempts to isolate Russia on the world stage haven’t worked. In the past few weeks the Russian president met with the leaders of China, India, Japan, Germany, France, Austria, Israel and many other countries.  Just last week he met the heads of states representing over half of the planet’s population.

Keep in mind that when it comes to U.S. national security, no one objects to Trump’s negotiating with Kim whose nuclear button is much smaller than America’s. Then why would anyone object to negotiations with the one fellow on earth whose button is essentially the same size as ours?

Washington and Moscow can endlessly exchange accusations of violating international law and upsetting the world order.  When we raise the issues of Ukraine, Georgia, and Syria, they throw back at us Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen – plus Syria, where the Russians actually have more legitimacy, since they have been invited in by the internationally recognized government while we have not.

It was Trump himself who blasted his predecessors in the White House for creating carnage in the Middle East. In terms of human casualties and material losses our misadventures far exceed anything the Russians can be accused of. 

The difference is that when Moscow does it we call it aggression. But when we do it, it is just a mistake.

At the same time more and more leading American and Russian experts believe that the probability of actual U.S.-Russia war is growing; on a scale of 1 to 10, the majority gives it 5 to 7 chance.  John Sawers, a former head of the British MI6 intelligence service, delivered a sober warning: “For the first time in living memory, there is a realistic prospect of a superpower conflict.”

That itself is reason to keep the lines of communication open at the very top, personal level. If FDR could meet with the USSR’s Stalin, Eisenhower with Khrushchev, Nixon with Brezhnev, Reagan with Gorbachev – not to mention earlier Putin summits with Bush and Obama – why should a summit with Trump be such an exception?

During a recent Q & A session Putin answered a question about the chances for the WWIII with a quote from the famous physicist Albert Einstein: “I don’t know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

At present a Trump-Putin summit carries a literal life-and-death urgency. There must be a clear understanding between the leaders of the two nuclear superpowers before some mishap somewhere results in unimaginable catastrophe for both countries and for the whole world.

The summit must happen – soon. Judging from their statements both presidents agree, and Austria has already offered to host the meeting in Vienna.  A “politically incorrect” but logical prelude for the summit has been made by Trump, when he called for Russia’s readmission to the Group of Seven (G7), thus making it the G8 again.

In addition, there is a people’s diplomacy initiative in the form of a petition posted by American activists on the White House website, urging that the summit be held as soon as possible.  Not only Americans and Russians but everyone on this planet should support this critical initiative intended to save the human civilization.

Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. He is the author of the book Operation Elbe, which describes joint US-Russia anti-terrorist efforts. Jim Jatras is a former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership. He is the author of a major study, How American Media Serves as a Transmission Belt for Wars of Choice.”

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