- Wednesday, December 11, 2019

At a time of one of the greatest political upheavals in American history that could spill over into foreign affairs, especially U.S.-Russian relations with unpredictable and devastating results, I thought Christmas might offer a chance for all of us to take a pause and search for an exit from the megacrisis.

Many people believe miracles do happen at Christmastime. However, it looks like we need President Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to perform at least three of them.

Those who wonder why Mr. Zelensky is on this list should recall that the Trump impeachment process started because of his phone call with this guy whose country the Democrats and their pathetic witnesses deem no less than vital to America’s national security.

Let us start with Mr. Putin because someone has to take the first difficult step and he is the only one in a clear position to do it.

Dear Mr. Putin, please make a public statement that Russia pledges not to interfere in the next and future American elections. It would be good if the two chambers of the Russian parliament, the Duma and Federation Council, ratify this pledge as well. Please do it unilaterally without asking Mr. Trump and the U.S. Congress to respond in kind.

Dear Mr. Trump, please return to your earlier thinking about NATO as an obsolete organization that lost its purpose in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw military bloc. Since then, it has been searching desperately for new missions and enemies to justify its existence.

Recall that NATO’s continuous expansion drive is the major factor that squandered the exceptional opportunity for U.S.-Russian rapprochement that all Russian leaders, starting with Mikhail Gorbachev, kept proposing. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat, and 18 other senators voted against President Clinton’s first round of NATO expansion. “We’ll be back on a hair-trigger. … We’re talking about nuclear war,” they said.

At the same time, NATO has failed to counter international terrorism — the real threat to European and American security. It is NATO that boosted the jihadi peril by overthrowing Libya’s government, allowing that prosperous country to morph into a terrorist playground and staging point for millions of unvetted migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

Is NATO making America and our allies more secure? During the Cold War, when NATO allowed the West to stand firm against Soviet communist designs on Europe, the answer was an easy yes, but today, with NATO’s reckless poking of the Russian bear, the answer is a resounding no.

A rebuilt NATO or a new organization, IATO — International Anti-Terrorist Organization — specifically targeting global jihad, would have a future with new partners including Russia, for which terrorism represents a major security threat. Georgia and Ukraine could join IATO as well, thus taking the first step toward reconciliation with Russia that NATO’s insatiable expansion drive helped destroy.
French President Emmanuel Macron is the first Western leader who agrees with this point of view and is not afraid to say that “NATO’s brain is dead.” However, the U.S. president must take the lead to move past legacy NATO.

Dear Mr. Zelensky, I believe that you sincerely want to end the war in your country. It is not an easy job since you face a strong and vocal radical nationalistic opposition with strong neo-Nazi overtones that declares that any compromise on your side will be met with the violent resistance and another “Maidan revolution” that may lead to your overthrow. The leader of this opposition is former President Petro Poroshenko, whom Washington supported all these years and who was given a rare privilege to speak at a joint session of Congress, where members greeted him with numerous standing ovations. At the same time, Ukrainian people hated him so much that they decided to replace him with a Jewish comic actor with no political experience.

Mr. Zelensky, I wonder if you have read the book “Shooting Stars” by Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, which describes some important episodes in which fate gave an individual a chance at a historical turning point. Zweig says fate usually chooses for this purpose a strong personality, but sometimes it falls to mediocrities who fail miserably.

You are in a position to decide which you will be, and the pass to historical Olympus is obvious.

After a Western-backed coup overthrew the legitimate Ukrainian president in February 2014, it brought to power a government largely picked by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. People in the Donbass region did not accept the new government and made two conditions for remaining a part of Ukraine: special autonomy status and two state languages. This is exactly what Canada provides for its large French-speaking minority.

Those with even rudimentary knowledge of Ukrainian history and its huge ethnic Russian population would agree that these demands are not unreasonable, but the post-coup government called the separatist forces terrorists, sent aviation and tanks, and started a civil war that has been raging for five years.
Washington, which was in total control of the Ukrainian political class, could have resolved this crisis easily by telling the new government to accept these modest conditions. Instead, the U.S. supported Kyiv with money, weapons, military training and political support.

Mr. Zelensky, nowadays you and your country are used as pawns in the attempts to impeach Mr. Trump, but your prime responsibility is before Ukrainian people who dismissed the party of war and placed the fate of your country and its people in your hands. They expect you to make the right decision by choosing the road to peace.

While waiting for these miracles to materialize, I wish all a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and peace on earth in 2020.

Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.

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