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Reagan Advisor Bandow: Time To Normalize Relations with Russia

July 7, 2017 (EIRNS)—Doug Bandow, a strategic advisor to President Ronald Reagan, now with the Cato Institute, writes that President Trump’s effort to improve relations with Russia may be his most important policy initiative. The column is in Forbes magazine today, coinciding with the meeting of both Presidents in Hamburg, Germany.

Bandow asserts that America and Russia have common interests in many areas—such as fighting ISIS, cyber warfare—and then raises alleged "Russian interference in U.S. elections, only to up-end it, stating that while this is vital U.S. interest, "the United States itself has interfered in election processes of at least 81 nations, including Russia a few decades ago. "Before sanctioning Moscow the U.S. Congress might apologize for the many times the Americans played a similar game." Russian efforts were not needed for Hillary Clinton to lose, he adds.

Bandow says Russia is powerful, with global interests; it opposes nuclear proliferation by Iran and North Korea. Moscow could becomee a "balancer," he writes. "Mutual irritation with, if not antagonism toward, Washington has encouraged cooperation with China, but this is no World War II "Axis."

Bandow notes that Russia today spends one-ninth of what the United States does on military outlays. Russia is essentially absent from much of world: Ibero-America, Africa, and huge parts of Asia. And if Europe is so scared of Russia, why don’t the European nations spend more on defense? Overall, NATO Europe devotes 1.46 of GDP to military spending; Latvia and Lithuania "whimper" more than anyone, but spend only 1.7%, and 1.77%.

Bandow calls today’s meeting "overdue." Trump should make clear that interference with American elections is a red line, while pledging he will avoid political intervention or regime change with Russia. Negotiations over a cyber accord, like that reached with China, should be a priority. Putin and Trump should develop a compact on Syria, promoting political options to reach a long-term settlement, and the United States should back away its military after the defeat of ISIS.

Bandow urges the United States, Brussels, and Moscow to seek a reasonable resolution for Ukraine and lifting of sanctions. Possibilities include practical acceptance, though official non-recognition, of the annexation of Crimea; implementation of extensive autonomy for eastern Ukraine: an end to Russian support of Ukraine separatists; Kiev’s agreement to military neutralization; NATO’s pledge not to induct Kiev, and a deepening of UKrainian economic relations to the East and West. "Clearly only Kiev can agree on its role," but, Bandow urges,

"the West should state clearly that it will not hold its relations with Moscow hostage to Kiev’s unrealistic hope for alliance membership and Western military aid."

Bandow concludes,

"On foreign policy, candidate Trump has had better views than President Trump. Today’s meeting is an opportunity for Trump to take hold of United States policy toward Moscow. Yet again, the usual suspects in Washington have driven America into a foreign cul-de-sac with no exit strategy. The president should turn the country around, and quickly."