What’s To Be Done About the Dire State of US-Russia Relations?

The way things between US and Russia are now going we are quickly approaching a repeat of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which was a pivotal moment of the last century. Back then, both nations stood "eyeball to eyeball" in a way that could have resulted in the nuclear exchange, the deaths of 100 million citizens on each side, and a doubtful future for our planet.

Faced with the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and the hard choice of either accepting a fait accompli or starting a nuclear war, President John Kennedy offered a compromise to the Soviet leader at the time, Nikita Khrushchev: if the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from Cuba, America would not invade the island and would withdraw US nuclear missiles from Turkey. Khrushchev accepted the deal and war was averted at the last minute.

If one substitutes Venezuela for Cuba, and Ukraine for Turkey, we more-or-less arrive at today’s crisis. In one sense, the situation isn’t as bad yet since so far there are no Russian nukes in Venezuela or American ones in Ukraine. On the other hand, it is worse since President Trump has no free hand for reaching a compromise with Putin. From now on any major deal with Russia has to be approved by Congress, and there is no way that this body with its miserable ratings (according to Gallup only 1 out of 5 Americans approves their job while 77% disapprove) would allow Trump to follow Kennedy’s steps even at the risk of major war. Every time Trump initiates a contact with Putin the Deep State and the media go ballistic.

For many in Washington capitalist Russia is much worse than the communist USSR, with Russiagate having become an important weapon in internal partisan squabbles in the United States. Despite the fact that Robert Mueller found no trace of Trump-Putin collusion both Republicans and Democrats continue to accuse each other of conspiring with the Kremlin. As Tucker Carlson of FoxNews correctly stated: “The Russia story cannot die. CNN, The Washington Post, the Democratic Party, many others have too much invested in that story. The fact it’s been proven to be untrue is irrelevant to them.”

Faced with the DOJ investigation about Obama’s administration "worse than Watergate" scandal the Dems will do everything to keep the Russia scare intact.

Thankfully, even in these bad times there are some strategically thinking people willing to sound the alarm that we are sleepwalking into nuclear catastrophe. Even the most notorious "Russiagaters" like Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, or Maxine Waters would not dare to call them Kremlin stooges.

These include some of highest-level former US officials: Secretary of State George Shultz, Defense Secretary William Perry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Senator Sam Nunn who keep warning that “a bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia and walk back from this perilous precipice. Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War.”

Other experts have likewise called for re-engagement to reduce the risks of mutual misunderstanding and unintended signals.”During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked,” says the top NATO commander in Europe, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. “I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.”

However, Congress severely limited US military cooperation with Russia by passing a law that prohibits such cooperation and placed the entire blame on "Russian aggression" and "election meddling."

There are only a few brave souls like Iraq war veteran and current runner in the 2020 presidential elections Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) or NYU and Princeton professor Steven F. Cohen who have faulted the US role in the violent regime changes in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and election meddling in dozens of other countries, including Russia.

​As expected, both were quickly added to the list of Putin agents, as nowadays you are not supposed to say such things without unpleasant consequences.

Nevertheless, more and more sane voices are being heard, including a group of US, Canadian and European security experts who issued a call for talks with Russia on crisis management.

Adds former USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed: "Nuclear weapons could go off because of a technical failure, human or computer error. The last alarms me the most. Computer systems are now used everywhere. And how many times have computers and electronics failed-in aviation, in industry, in various control systems? Nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. And who knows what other ‘surprises’ these weapons have in store for us?​”​

​Returning to Venezuela, in my humble opinion the solution to this crisis is to follow the example of Kennedy-Khrushchev deal: the Russians pull out their military personnel and equipment from Venezuela, America pledges not to invade that country and withdraws its military from Ukraine. At the same time 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.

Wishful thinking? Judging from the recent Trump-Putin conversation they might go for it, but would the Swamp allow it? That’s highly unlikely – but the alternative might be very unpredictable and dangerous.

Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. Submitted by the author.