Presidents Trump and Putin held a 90-minute telephone conversation on Friday. Hopefully, it is the start of a long-overdue strategic dialogue to repair the damage done by Russia-gate and other political roadblocks thrown up in the way of a resumption of Russian-American efforts to find areas of common global interest and set aside points of conflict in the interest of global stability.
The list of shared concerns is long: Extension of the New START Treaty covering strategic weapons; efforts to either salvage or replace the INF Treaty before both Russia and NATO begin deploying intermediate range missiles along a European front; Korean denuclearization; a diplomatic solution to the Syrian War, now that it is clear that President Bashar Assad has survived the eight-year regime change effort.
While the MSM continues to assail Trump every time he tries to strike up a conversation with Putin, a number of Cold War veterans have come out recently, pressing for US-Russian dialogue. William Perry, Sam Nunn and George Shultz penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on April 10 headlined "The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us." They argued for a multi-track resumption of US-Russian diplomacy, involving the Executive and Legislative Branches. Most urgently, they called for the US and Russia to agree to abandon the "launch on warning" doctrine of nuclear retaliatory strikes, which give leaders only moments to decide whether to launch Armageddon. A majority of Democratic Senators recently wrote to President Trump, urging the beginning of direct dialogue with Russia over extension of New START beyond the 2021 termination date.
Before the Trump-Putin phone call, two Administration officials traveled recently to Moscow to confer with counterparts. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council director for Russian Affairs visited around the same time that the President's envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun made an April 17-18 visit to the Kremlin to discuss US-Russian collaboration to revive the stalled Korea denuclearization talks.
The Hill and Biegun talks were a very cautious first step towards reconstituting a Russian-American diplomatic engagement. Still far from plans for the Trump-Putin summit that has been on hold since July 2018, when the two presidents met in Helsinki.
All of the bitching and moaning about Donald Trump's personality, his unpredictability and worse cannot any longer stand in the way of some effort to resume real substantive Washington-Moscow engagement. Nuclear war and the other pressing issues on the US-Russian table are adult stuff. The Beltway infantile fits about Trump-Russian "collusion" have played their course. It's time to let it go.