- Monday, May 20, 2019

Following issuance of Robert Mueller’s final report concluding there was no “collusion” with the Kremlin, and Donald Trump’s “very good” phone conversation with Vladimir Putin, the US President told us via Twitter that he believes there is a “tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia, despite what you read and see in the Fake News Media.” He added, “The World can be a better and safer place.”

Though many of us have long hoped for signals and actual movement towards US-Russia rapprochement, the Swamp and the Media – as expected – immediately accused Trump of betrayal. For them, hatred for this President outweighs the national security interests of the United States.

Nevertheless, some observers thought that perhaps the Trump-Putin chat could be a sign the Trump administration has finally decided to address the fears not only of regular folks but of prominent experts as well that US and Russia are “sleepwalking into the nuclear disaster.” Among these experts are former high level officials from previous administrations like Secretary of State George Shultz, Secretary of Defense William Perry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Senator Sam Nunn, and many others who clearly see the dangers of the current confrontation.

Indeed, while speculations about some kind of “Grand Bargain” were floated during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Russia, this, unfortunately, they did not materialize. Yes, there were smiles, handshakes – but nothing pointing to concrete positive steps. Communiqués from both sides just repeated the list of familiar disagreements with no hint of progress as to how to resolve them through compromise.

Judging from Pompeo’s statements he does not share his predecessor George Shultz’s appreciation that diplomacy is based on give and take. Rather, he made sure everyone understood that he came to Russia only because Trump instructed him to do so. During his press conference Pompeo said: “President Trump has made clear that his expectation is that we will have an improved relationship between our two countries. This will benefit each of our peoples, and I think that our talks here today were a good step in that direction. … President Trump wants to do everything we can — I think there are truly overlapping interests that we can build on, and most importantly, President Trump very much wants to do that.”

However, there’s no clue Pompeo wants what Trump wants and it looks like neither Secretary of State nor anyone else in the White House administration is ready to help President in this matter.

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy-Khrushchev Deal
Soviets agreed to pull out their nuclear missiles from Cuba in exchange for Americans to do the same from Turkey and pledge not to invade Cuba.

As we know, Trump has publicly committed to meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the June 28-29 G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. Since he cannot count on help from his team, why not search for guidance from President John Kennedy’s experience during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis? At that time WWIII was averted when the Soviets agreed to pull out their nuclear missiles from Cuba, while the Americans pledged not to invade the island and to withdraw US missiles from Turkey.

At the moment, the Russians’ “Cuba” is Venezuela, and our “Turkey” is Ukraine, which the Obama administration helped plunge into crisis in 2014. Taking a cue from 1962, today’s deal might look like this:  the Russians pull their military out of Venezuela while America does the same from Ukraine. In addition, Venezuela’s Maduro and Guaidó agree to hold new, internationally monitored elections under UN supervision, while US and Russia cooperate in implementation of the Minsk agreement for Ukraine.

2019 Ukraine - Venezuela Crisis. Trump-Putin Deal?
Russians pull out their military from Venezuela while America does the same from Ukraine.  In addition, Maduro and Guaidó would agree to hold new, internationally monitored elections under UN supervision while the US and Russia cooperate in implementation of the Minsk agreement for Ukraine.

Not sure Putin would accept this deal, but if Trump does so I think he might give it a serious consideration. Putin, of course, has a free hand to make a deal but there is no doubt that not only the Swamp and the media would go ballistic but Trump’s own team would fight him tooth and claw.

For the “exceptional” and “indispensable” believers in the unipolar world order under Washington’s watch this deal would be an anathema but I have a feeling that Trump’s electoral base would support him like it did in 2016.  

Isn’t this what counts going into 2020?

The alternative might be very unpredictable and dangerous.

 • Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. He is the author of the book Operation Elbe, which describes joint US-Russia antiterrorist efforts.

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