Candidate Clinton and many others during our recent election cycle seemed to be intent on blaming a series of evil deeds on Russian hackers and what seemed as puerile attempts to incite Russophobia in the electorate. Wisely, President-elect Trump recently stated his belief that there are common interests and areas that he and President Putin could work on.
I believe President-elect Trump and President Putin each share a love for their country and love and respect for their people and are motivated by what each believes is in their nation’s national interest. With that framework or view in mind we can disarm and avoid the neocon or alarmist driven escalation of rhetoric and tensions. Both men have the vision and desire to make their countries great again. President-elect Trump and President Putin are positioned to lead both their nations to brighter futures and I believe their odds of succeeding are significantly better if they find areas of common interest and mutual benefit.
Mutually assured destruction remains an unpleasant but effective reality and motivator for peace and reason to de-escalate where we can find common grounds. Both the US and the Russian Federation share a number of common interests, characteristics or challenges; rebuilding their respective economies for national strength and vitality as well as to benefit their citizens and combating Muslim terrorism.
In his book “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers” Paul Kennedy shared that economic strength is the single most important factor in a nation’s health and propensity for longevity as a great power. Working from that premise, there are a number of areas for US and Russian Federation collaboration, cooperation and mutual benefit. Both the US and the Russian Federation have extremely capable 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft, ballistic missiles, ballistic missile defenses, conventional and special operations forces. Admittedly there are numerous areas of military spending where the US and the Russian Federation should invest such as training, maintenance, spare parts and so on. Those investments would probably be the most cost effective for both nation’s armed forces. Another cold war and arms race would be unnecessary and work counter to the shared goals of economic growth, vitality and stability.
As President Kennedy said in 1963 “a rising tide lifts all boats” and genuine economic health and growth will benefit the people of Russia and America, increase the popularity and power of both leaders as well as the economic health and vitality of both nations.
Not isolationism but non-interventionism:
Recently I read the tremendous book Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith. President Eisenhower successfully avoided military conflict during his two terms as President and the United States enjoyed a tremendously popular and thriving period.
During my undergraduate years at the United States Naval Academy I took an elective titled “Muscovite and Imperial Russian History.” A lasting take-away from that was the Russian cultural memory and fear (which may be too strong a word) of foreign invasion.
In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the ensuing changes led to the United Soviet Socialist Republic becoming the Russian Federation. I remember thinking then that we should withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and bring our deployed military forces home. We would have suffered no loss of national security and could have realized defense budget savings.
Unfortunately, the role and missions of NATO expanded and has grown into Eastern Europe. As these events have unfolded over time I thought and reflected again and again at how the Russian people, military and politicians would perceive and view or frame these events. I worried that they would feel they were slowly being encircled, encroached upon or threatened from the west.
This seems to be occurring as detailed in the news and recently Russian news reported that S-400 anti-aircraft and Iskander ballistic missiles have been moved to Kaliningrad in response to the NATO deployments.
As a retired Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps my next points may surprise and possibly alienate many.
President Putin and President-elect Trump and have an opportunity. President-elect Trump has an opportunity to demonstrate he is not another neocon and that he possesses the wisdom and vision to be confident and bold. President-elect Trump and President Putin should pro-actively communicate and work together to de-escalate.
Specifically the US should withdraw from NATO and bring our military forces stationed in Europe home. Russia should likewise withdraw its military forces from the region. Both great nations will save money in the long run at no loss of national security. Additionally Putin and Trump will also reap soft-power and respect within their own nations, and amongst the other world leaders on the world stage.
Another area of current friction between the US and Russia is Syria. As Patrick J. Buchanon pointed out “ISIS Not Russia, Is the Enemy in Syria.” So, if viewed and approached differently this is also an opportunity.
Syria’s internal strife and civil war are tragic and not a threat to America’s safety or survival. Unfortunately many nations in the Middle East seem to have taken the position that victory over ISIS cannot be achieved until Assad has been toppled. If Syria were to collapse and be overrun by ISIS or other fighting factions and this would further destabilize the region.
The United State’s current position is to oppose President Assad and support “moderate” Muslim groups that will fight both ISIS and Assad. Our track record in finding and supporting “moderate Muslim rebels” is poor at best and we should cut our losses in that fool’s errand. These same “moderate” Muslim groups are being funded by Saudi Arabia and these “moderate” groups may have real ties and allegiances to terrorist groups. Furthermore we have no guarantee these groups and individuals won’t change alliances and sides if they believe it will benefit them, profit them or improve their longevity.
The US and Russia both benefit from a stable Syria. At stable Syria provides us both and the world a bulwark against the expansion of ISIS territory, power and influence. Conversely, further destabilization, as we have seen transpire in Egypt and Libya; will only bring more suffering to the people of Syria. For Russia an intact and stable Syria safeguards its warm water Mediterranean port for the Russian Navy.
We would be better off following a policy of realism regarding Syria and the region. If the US is serious about finding a “moderate” Muslim ally and not being about meddling in another nation’s internal affairs or another round of disastrous post-war nation building, we should back President Assad.
The US should withdraw financial support, arms sales or transfers and military aide or advisors to the rebels fighting the Syrian government forces and ISIS. We should bring our boots on the ground and our aircraft, pilots and drones home. President Assad is no saint, no friend of Israel and yes Iran is also backing him. However loudly the neocons will scream over those points, that shouldn’t preclude an alternative solution.
Meanwhile, the Syrian economy and people are suffering.
Bin Laden wrote many years ago that the US forces (infidels) stationed in Saudi Arabia was an on-going source of motivation for Muslim hatred of the US and jihad. Saudi Arabia has a long and ongoing role supporting and active funding of Muslim groups that range from unfriendly to the US to actively committed to acts of terrorism against the US and our citizens world-wide. Over the years the US has been a stalwart ally of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we have also profitably sold them modern defense hardware such as the F-15, air to air missiles, AWACS who knows what else.
Doing a quick risk-benefit analysis, I fail to see where keeping our US forces in Saudi benefits us. We should therefore withdraw our service men and women, our military hardware and stop buying and importing oil from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Instead we should shift those oil purchases to Syria and other nations. Through these steps we can economically support a legitimate nation-state in Syria, obliquely counter ISIS and withdraw “infidels” from Saudi Arabia and thereby one reason for groups seeking terrorism against the US.
It is my assessment that ISIS within the Middle East does not pose an immediate threat to the US.
ISIS is a very real and immediate threat to the people and nations in that region. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the people and nations in that region to band together and effectively fight and defeat ISIS. Peaceful steps or actions that work to support and bulwark Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Jordan and Turkey serve the interests of both the US and the Russian Federation.
 “Putin Is Right” by Patrick Buchanan, LewRockwell.com Sept. 18, 2015
 LewRockwell.com, October 7, 2016