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Russian Expert Stephen Cohen: Advice to Trump on Reaching Détente

Nov. 22, 2016 (EIRNS)—Russian expert Dr. Stephen Cohen of New York University and Princeton, a contributing editor to The Nation, offered President-elect Trump this advice on the John Batchelor Radio Show Nov. 15, and covered in The Nation Nov. 16. Cohen makes these points:

Détente has a long 20th-Century history. Its major breakthroughs were initiated by Republican Presidents: Eisenhower, Nixon, and "most spectacularly, Ronald Reagan in 1985" [sic—rather 1983, with his Strategic Defense Initiative, as Lyndon LaRouche’s EIR has proven]. Cohen says four prerequisites are required: 1) a determined U.S. President who will fight against a mainstream opposition; 2) one who can rally support by prominent U.S. figures who did not support his candidacy; 3) who has a few like-minded aides at his side, and 4) who has a pro-détente partner in the Kremlin.

Cohen points out that Trump seems determined. Trump repeatedly called for cooperation with Russia for the sake of U.S. national security, and "he alone refused to indulge in the rampant fact-free vilification of Putin." Trump seems even "contemptuous" of the foreign policy establishment. It isn’t clear, says Cohen, how many in either party will support détente, or whether he will find in his inner circle a secretary of state and ambassador to Moscow who will assist him in this pursuit. But Putin is certainly ready to be a partner, says Cohen.

The new Cold War is more dangerous than the preceding 40-year Cold War, because in three of its current fronts—Ukraine, the Baltic region, and Syria—hot war is possible. The Ukraine proxy war is a disaster for all—détente succeeds when mutual interests are agreed and negotiated. NATO’s ongoing buildup in the Baltic region, Poland, and Russia’s counter-buildup on Western borders

"is fraught with accidental or intentional war.... If Trump is determined, he will have the power to end the buildup and even undo it, though the new eastern-most members of NATO will loudly protest.... Agreement in Syria should be easiest. Both Trump and Putin have insisted that the real threat there is not ... Assad, but the IS and other terrorists."

There are many other Cold War conflicts, but a step forward could be taken by ending the "banomania," bans that both sides have enacted since 2014—e.g., Putin could end the ban on American adoption of Russian children, which would give détente a "human face." The more complex issue of ending sanctions will depend on détente progressing.

Cohen concludes,

"The standard version of why Obama’s ‘reset’ failed is untrue. Putin did not wreck it. Instead the Obama Administration took Russia’s major concessions and made almost none of its own.... Détente rests on parity; both sides have legitimate national interests that can be reconciled."

Because of the "demonization" of Putin, the American political-media establishment has implied that Russia has no legitimate national interests of its own conception, not even on its borders. Cohen concludes that an American president has more freedom of action and less constraints on him in foreign policy than in any other policy realm. "And no issue is now more important that the state of U.S.-Russia relations.