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Better Relations with Russia Should be Welcomed, Not Feared

It's OK to seek better relations with foreign countries.

Metzel Mikhail/ZUMA Press/NewscomMetzel Mikhail/ZUMA Press/NewscomDid you hear the one about Moscow hoping to normalize relations with the United States? BuzzFeed has obtained a Russian document, composed in March, that laid out a proposal for "the wholesale restoration of diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels severed between the two countries after Russia's military interventions in Ukraine and Syria."

A spokesperson for the National Security Council suggested to BuzzFeed that "administration overtures" were not the chief reason the Russian government believed this normalization was possible. Buzzfeed's John Hudson disputes this: "Of course, Russian officials could simply have listened to Trump's extensive public remarks, which repeatedly touted the benefits of engagement with Moscow as recently as February," he writes, quoting the president saying he'd "love to be able to get along with Russia" at a press conference that month. (Hudson didn't include the end of the quote: "It's possible I won't be able to get along with Putin.")

A willingness to "seek friendship and good will with the nations of the world," as Trump put it in his inaugural address, and an "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," is an acknowledgement that poorly defined security interests have led the U.S. to all kinds of unnecessary stand-offs and escalations. Hudson alludes to Trump's "warm rhetoric," but expressing a desire for better relations with Russia is supposed to make diplomacy easier. There's nothing wrong with that.

In any event, obsessive coverage of the purported Russia-Trump conspiracies has poisoned the well for normalizing U.S.-Russian relations. The famously media-obsessed Trump has allowed media coverage of the Russia-Trump story to drive his own actions; among other things, that meant shooting himself in the foot by firing FBI Director James Comey, which invited Congress to appoint a special counsel to investigate Trump's Russia connections. Eventually he embraced veto-proof Russia sanctions that were helpful only as ammo for domestic political rhetoric. Now Washington and Moscow are locked into petty battles over over trivia like consulate parking spaces.

The sanctions Trump signed were initially so severe—barring American companies from participating in any energy venture in which any Russian entities had any stake—that even the European Union (EU) raised concerns. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker insisted Europe was "fully committed to the Russia sanctions regime," but he worried about "unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU's energy security interests."

The European Union, for all its lofty rhetoric, does not have the capability to defend itself, relying instead on NATO, whose borders don't exactly match the EU's. Notably, NATO includes the United States, which bears the brunt of the aliance's costs. What Juncker wants—and what Trump challenged on the campaign trail but has largely come to accept as president—is for the United States to maintain European security guarantees.

Trump has pressed European allies to contribute more to NATO, and he was rebuffed. Juncker insisted Europe's spending on foreign aid counts toward the NATO commitment of spending 3 percent of GDP on defense. Outside of the U.S., most NATO countries spending above the minimum are on the EU's borders—countries like Poland and Lithuania, whose acute fear of invasion is rooted in their histories with Russia.

The U.S. ought to pursue normalized relations with Moscow. Washington has no national security interests in Ukraine, and the conflict there ought to be resolved between Russia and Ukraine and, if it so pressed, the European Union. All sides would be incentivized to talk through their problems if they didn't have the U.S. to lean on.

Photo Credit: Metzel Mikhail/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • WakaWaka||

    "The U.S. ought to pursue normalized relations with Moscow. Washington has no national security interests in Ukraine, and the conflict there ought to be resolved between Russia and Ukraine and, if it so pressed, the European Union"

    Ok, Donald Trump

  • Mickey Rat||

    Borders are just arbitrary things. Who cares if one nation expands their border at the expense of a nation friendly to the US (which the US had convinced to give up their nuclear arsenal in exchange for protectiom from its historical oppressor). Saying "you screwed up, you trusted us" to Ukraine will not hurt the USA's reputation at all.

  • WakaWaka||

    Correction. Ukraine became 'friendly' with the US after our government with our European allies overthrew the democratically elected president of Ukraine because he was too pro-Russia.

    But, hey, war is cool.

  • Zeb||

    So, short of war with Russia, what are we supposed to do about it? Whatever we've been doing hasn't given the Crimea back to Ukraine. And I doubt "sanction more" will be any more effective.

  • Mickey Rat||

    My point is that Putin's Russia is not really all that friendly and making promises you do mot intend to keep comes at a cost.

    The idea that we had no interest in Russia's destabilizing behavior is disingenuous.

  • ||

    How many arbitrary and dishonest promises made by our diplomatic establishment do I need to be the backstop on?

  • Tony||

    Russia committed an act of war against the United States. And won.

  • WakaWaka||

    Delusional talk from the perpetually butt hurt

  • Tony||

    A member of the Duma just said on live Russian TV that the Russian intelligence service succeeded in "stealing" the US presidency.

    If they had stolen it for Hillary the butthurt in these parts and all around the right-wing moron-o-sphere would be the temperature of a thousand suns.

  • WakaWaka||

    That seems odd, since the Buzzfeed story says that Putin offered to normalize relations immediately after the election and Trump demurred. Maybe it's just more of that 4d game of hungry hungry hippos that Trump seems to be so brilliantly playing.

  • Tony||

    Nobody said the plan was brilliant in its long-term scope. Obviously once we caught on Trump was more boxed in than anyone else would have been, ironically, since any move favorable to Russia would look unseemly. The whole play was classic Russia, meaning using classic Russian tactics (including using Trump and co. as useful idiots and expertly deploying propaganda), but that's not to say it was intelligent. They did lose the Cold War.

  • WakaWaka||

    You are a clinically stupid man and your grief gives me great joy.

  • Tony||

    Good to know you're on team anti-America.

  • WakaWaka||

    Haha. Never change

  • ||

  • Mickey Rat||

    Stole it how?

    The charge against them still amounts to revealing to the public the corrupt internal workings of the Dem political machine.

  • Tony||

    John Podesta's risotto--so corrupt.

  • WakaWaka||

    Yes. That's it. It was all just risotto recipes.

  • Tony||

    It really was. A bunch of boring unimportant crap that included three or four extremely minor juicy bits that journalists *somehow* were directed to and then blew completely out of proportion. You should know I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but this is all mainstream information now. There is more scandal in your inbox probably.

  • ||

    Yet, it sabotaged HRC's whole campaign and enabled a Russian spy to be elected President.

    Those are some powerful risotto recipes!

  • Tony||

    Russians are good at propaganda. I said that.

  • ||

    Russians are good at propaganda. I said that.

    And apparently didn't even feel stupid doing so.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Still have not explained how Russia "stole" the election from an uncharismatic, incompetent and preposterously entitled politician.

  • Tony||

    No they stole it for him.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Yes. That's it. It was all just risotto recipes.

    Exactly. It exposed kiddie-fucking in pizza shops.

  • WakaWaka||

    What do you think 'risotto' is code for?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Polenta!

  • DesigNate||

    Uh huh.

    Whatever keeps you warm at night while you hug your signed copy of "What Happened?", buckaroo.

  • Tony||

    So are you happy that the Russians hacked the US presidential election because the outcome was favorable to you, or do you just not care that they did it?

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Hacked" doesn't mean what you are trying to make it mean.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Hacked" doesn't mean what you are trying to make it mean.

  • Tony||

    Well I guess that makes it all okay.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It makes it something that happens. It just gets pulled out here to explain the loss of a singularly uninspiring and unpleasant candidate who bought the media's fluffing her for the better part of three decades.

  • Tony||

    I don't think I quite got that. Could you repeat in the original Russian?

  • BYODB||

    Well, it mean's you're wrong if nothing else.

  • Juice||

    Define favorable here.

  • DesigNate||

    Mmmmmm your tears are so fucking delicious.

  • Zeb||

    So, some mild propaganda and attempts at political organizing counts as an act of war now?

    We are supposed to uncritically believe any boasting by Duma members now?

  • ||

    And wouldn't that mean that the US has committed countless "acts of war" against basically every nation on earth, including all of our allies?

  • Zeb||

    I believe that it would mean just that.

  • MarkLastname||

    You are truly out of your mind. Act of war? Grow up, Tony.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm going to start calling you Ed NAIVEski. It's both apropos and easier for me to pronounce.

  • damikesc||

    Well, thanks to the #Resistance, Russian relations are awfully terrible.

  • WakaWaka||

    Reason shares in that blame, despite their sudden change of heart since 'muh collusion' is 'muh collapsing' before their eyes. Let's not forget their cover story that called for trade sanctions against Russia for feelz and Jacob Sullum's Russia fever dreams

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    The U.S. ought to pursue normalized relations with Moscow.

    TreasonNN (get it?) employs Putin's stooges? Color me not surprised.

  • Zeb||

    I'm confused. Not that long ago I was told by several esteemed commenters that Cathy Young's Russia article definitely meant that Reason was all for sanctioning the fuck out of Russia and that was a bad thing. And fever dreams.

  • WakaWaka||

    That was most definitely true at the time, Zeb. Do you not recall Sullum's fever dreams and Young's article appearing on the front page of Reason? The sudden reversal probably has to do with the fact that the fever dreams have not panned out.

  • Zeb||

    I wasn't convinced then and I'm not convinced now.

    What were these supposed "fever dreams" that haven't panned out again? I don't recall Sullum reporting anything about Russia and the election that turned out to be false. Please fill me in if I'm forgetting something important.

    I think a more likely explanation than a sudden shift in editorial policy on Russia is that Reason follows the media in general on what they cover. Russia and the election was big news, so they put some writers on it.

  • WakaWaka||

    I suppose putting Young's article on the cover was just a coincidence. She wrote an extensive article and then presented it to them without their knowledge that she was writing it. They just decided to put her article on the cover (an article that called for trade sanctions against Russia for feelz), just because that was in the news.

  • Memory Hole||

    But Russia isn't militarily engaged in Ukraine according to dear leader Putin. You're lying Ed. Russia only wants peace. Why would you slander them in this way? You'll never have peace with Russia unless you accept the truth.

  • GILMORE™||

    Washington has no national security interests in Ukraine

    Well, says you.

    That didn't stop the US from signing a 'Security Assurances Agreement' where we promised to help secure their independence if they gave up their nukes.

    . The memorandum was originally signed by three nuclear powers, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. ...

    The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine....

    As a result, between 1994 and 1996, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons. Before that, Ukraine had the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile,[2][3] of which Ukraine had physical if not operational control.[4][5] ...

    Following the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, the US,[6][7] Canada,[8] the UK,[9] ... stated that Russian involvement was a breach of its obligations to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum.... On 4 March 2014, Russian president replied... describing current Ukrainian situation as a revolution, when "a new state arises, but with this state and in respect to this state, we have not signed any obligatory documents".[12]

    The situation remains 'unresolved' as they say.

  • Zeb||

    Well, isn't that more of an obligation than an interest?

  • GILMORE™||

    It depends how picky about international law one is.

    my point was simply that Ed's brief treatment here was (by intent or incompetence?) missing some relevant context.

  • ||

    And Congress ratified that Treaty?

  • GILMORE™||

    remind of the last time congress ratified a treaty, i forget

  • ||

    So we're just done with that part of the Constitution then, on account of it isn't convenient for the foreign policy establishment?

  • GILMORE™||

    I'm just pointing out that pretending that the only form of international diplomacy that actually matter are "treaties", and absolutely nothing else ever, is pig-ignorant

  • ||

    And I'm point out that saying "we promised" to defend Ukraine is disingenuous when "we" did no such thing.

    Our wise and benevolent leaders make and break promises with foreign government all day long without our participation. What makes this particular promise so much more sacred than all the others?

  • GILMORE™||

    What makes this particular promise so much more sacred than all the others?

    (shrug)

    depends on how much you care about nuclear proliferation, stuff like that.

  • ||

    Nuclear Ukraine is less acceptable than nuclear Pakistan?

  • GILMORE™||

    Nuclear Ukraine is less acceptable than nuclear Pakistan?

    -

    don't know why you think that's relevant....

    its highly unlikely the US would/could ever convincingly 'guarantee' pakistan's territorial integrity in exchange for their nukes. Or that the US would ever be seen as a reliable 3rd party vis a vis their main enemy, India.

    The situation in post-cold-war Eastern Europe was obviously a different situation.

    I do agree that openly welshing on these sorts of disarmament-agreements basically makes any future similar-deal impossible. Or maybe that's not what you meant?

  • ||

    don't know why you think that's relevant

    I don't think we have the same opinion regarding the importance of nuclear disarmament, to put it in a phrase.

    I do agree that openly welshing on these sorts of disarmament-agreements basically makes any future similar-deal impossible.

    Why? Because prior to 1994 the US had a reputation for never welshing on international agreements?

    I might be colored by working in construction, where I deal with lying, dishonest, aggressively dickish people pretty much all day long. We all continue to deal with each other repeatedly even though we've all lied to each other, broken contracts, physically threatened one another, tried to defraud each other, and generally behaved like unworthy shitheads. It's just how things are.

    But maybe I'm too cynical - I can own up to that.

  • GILMORE™||

    And again, (not sure if you saw my comment above) but the only reason i raised the point was to provide relevant context.

    i.e. If you're going to write a piece about US/Russia relations and how good/not-good they should be over the whole Ukraine thing?

    and you don't bother mentioning the whole, "we actually once promised to maintain Ukrainian territorial integrity in exchange for their nukes"-thing?

    Then the writer is either being disingenuous, or incompetent.

    I didn't bring it up because i'm a big fan of any past US policy, or defending any current posture.

  • ||

    the only reason i raised the point was to provide relevant context.

    It certainly would have been a good thing for Ed to raise and argue against, rather than just pretend that there is no history or context - i.e. he should have pointed to it and made the arguments that Congress didn't participate, the US public has no interest in this situation, the US hasn't exactly been that good about holding up it's obligations to Russia under the treaty, etc., etc.

    But I don't fault him that hard for it - if we're going to define this unratified agreement as some kind of binding treaty representing a de facto US "security interest" in the area, we have an extremely large and tangled set of "treaties" all over the place that are mutually exclusive. We can't pay both Peter and Paul.

    As an example, we often discuss legalizing marijuana without feeling a need to discuss the ratified treaties we have with other countries agreeing to keep it illegal as being a central element of the discussion - we don't say "we can't legalize weed because we promised Mexico we wouldn't."

    Trusting the US Fed Gov was a fool's errand even before 1994. Just ask various countries in SE Asia.

  • GILMORE™||

    if we're going to define this unratified agreement as some kind of binding treaty representing a de facto US "security interest" in the area, we have an extremely large and tangled set of "treaties" all over the place that are mutually exclusive.

    I can't make heads or tails of what this sentence was trying to say.

    You seem to be having an argument with someone who said something different than me.

  • ||

    You quoted Ed saying we have no security interest in Ukraine, and you disagreed with him on the premise that "we" made this treaty, implying that therefore yes we do have a security interest there.

    If I misunderstood, I apologize, but you must see how this can be interpreted as you disagreeing with Ed and asserting that yes we do have a compelling security interest there?

    And that this assertion is based on the premise that this agreement exists?

  • BYODB||

    It's supposed to be, but backroom deals are so much easier since you don't need to explain yourself.

  • GILMORE™||

    here's another way of putting it:

    Do you think the US would have any "security interests" in that region if we hadn't convinced* the Ukrainians to give up their nukes?

    (*with nothing more than a pinky-swear)

  • ||

    "Security Interests" is about as vague a term as one could ever hope to use to justify a policy.

    Would Russia have invaded Ukraine if Ukraine were still a significant nuclear power? Hard to say. Would it be any of our business if they did?

  • GILMORE™||

    Would Russia have invaded Ukraine if Ukraine were still a significant nuclear power? Hard to say.

    I would imagine that was sort of the whole reason for the above-mentioned bit of diplomacy-stuff.

    maybe you should read it.

  • ||

    maybe you should read it.

    I did. I assume you're referring to this:

    The use of the weapons was dependent on Russian-controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system

    as being the insoluble problem that led the US to have to commit my money and safety to forever defending Ukraine?

    I don't think we see eye-to-eye on what the "US security interest" is here, exactly - what it is, to you, that we had to act to prevent with this unratified-yet-legally-binding treaty?

  • GILMORE™||

    what it is, to you, that we had to act to prevent

    again, read the doc. there's plenty there which explains the context. "3rd largest nuclear stockpile on earth" and all that.

    again, if you don't think anti-nuclear-weapons proliferation is a national security interest of the united states, that's certainly a perspective. It was seen as a rather important thing in the 1990s.

    And for the 3rd time, i was neither recommending this as the greatest idea that Bill Clinton ever had, or saying it was a terrible travesty of US diplomacy; just that it is ignorant to write a story about US/Russia relations vis-a-vis ukraine, and never even bother mentioning "that whole part about how we basically promised to defend their territorial integrity in exchange for a whole-lotta-nuclear-bombs"

  • ||

    if you don't think anti-nuclear-weapons proliferation is a national security interest of the united states,

    I don't think it is, no. I would have thought, though, that, say, Germany might have had an interest, but they didn't feel a need to participate in those talks.

    And for the 3rd time, i was neither recommending this as the greatest idea that Bill Clinton ever had, or saying it was a terrible travesty of US diplomacy; just that it is ignorant to write a story about US/Russia relations vis-a-vis ukraine, and never even bother mentioning "that whole part about how we basically promised to defend their territorial integrity in exchange for a whole-lotta-nuclear-bombs"

    What I was responding to was you quoting Ed saying the US doesn't have a national security interest there and then disagreeing with him.

    If I misinterpreted your point, I apologize.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Better Relations with Russia Should be Welcomed, Not Feared
    It's OK to seek better relations with foreign countries.

    Here's a better idea.
    Follow the advice President Washington gave us in his farewell speech.

  • ||

    But without foreign entanglements, how will we build an Empire?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, we could annex the entire planet. That way, our entanglements would no longer be foreign.

  • ||

    Brilliant!

  • Pro Libertate||

    If Obama had actually been a constitutional lawyer rather than an adjunct, he'd have thought of this. Ditto Trump (who isn't an attorney of any kind), though I suppose making everyone U.S. citizens might screw up his stated policies.

  • ||

    though I suppose making everyone U.S. citizens might screw up his stated policies.

    Are you kidding? We would never import anything ever again, and there would never be another immigrant, illegal or otherwise! No jobs would ever go to anyone who wasn't a proper American.

    I am becoming quite enamored of this idea.

  • BYODB||

    Libertarians seem to be attracted to the promise of an unaccountable worldwide government as of late, but I suspect the rest of the world will be less interested in being ruled from Washington even while the promise of free everything is quite the sirens lure.

  • creech||

    Washington and Jefferson warned against alliances, not peace, commerce and friendship.

    "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world": it was George Washington's Farewell Address to us. The inaugural pledge of Thomas Jefferson was no less clear: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none."

  • ||

    I'd tread carefully. We don't want to give Russia the idea that they can play similar games in the Baltics and get away with it.

    We could write off the Ukraine as Russia's "sphere of influence", as distasteful as that would be, but the Baltics are a totally different story. They have long had much closer ties to the West than the Ukraine and we sort of screwed them over after WWII.

  • Telcontar the (Obama) Birther||

    "the conflict there ought to be resolved between Russia and Ukraine and, if it so pressed, the European Union. All sides would be incentivized to talk through their problems if they didn't have the U.S. to lean on."

    "resolved"

    "talk"

    Such euphemisms!

  • ExHexisite||

    However, U.S. contrarian attitude toward Russia did not begin w/ Trump. Russia was looking normalize relations immediately after the USSR crumbled; our U.S. Pres., G.H.W. Bush, was busy reciting the "we-won-the-Cold-War" mantra. Pres. Clinton retained the same bellicosity, expanding NATO into the old Warsaw Pact countries, something SecyState James Baker earlier promised not to do.

    Military action displaced diplomacy long ago; now the profiteers are reaping their rewards. A complete tragedy of errors, which the mislabeled "Reason" & its media brethren refuse to pursue.

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