Russian-American relations deteriorated rapidly. President Donald trump has just reluctantly signed a bill on additional sanctions against Russia. And the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in anger ordered to 755 American diplomats left the country.
The new sanctions will have a double effect. On the one hand they can cause damage to the Russian economy, negatively affecting the investment climate in the country (Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev immediately responded, calling them a “Declaration of Russia’s full-fledged trade war”).
Perhaps more importantly, now that Trump has no opportunity to lift the sanctions without congressional approval, it will become even harder to fulfill his desire, which he often stated was to improve relations between Moscow and Washington.
However, trump is right. Russia and the United States must be able to cooperate. And, despite the taunts and the attacks on the recent sanctions, the way of achieving this goal exist.
One should not underestimate the complexity of the interaction with Putin. Try to reset relations with the other world’s largest nuclear superpower is completely in the interests of national security of America. Both sides in total have more than 14 thousand units of nuclear weapons, the Bulletin of the atomic scientists (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists) recently turned the spotlight of their “doomsday clock”, setting them at around two and a half minutes 12. This means that for the period since 1953, the threat of nuclear war has now reached the maximum.
However, the issue of improving the situation, trump can’t rely on their developing relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The US President must, rather, to create an intergovernmental institutional structure to support this goal. Fortunately for trump, his predecessors had already set a precedent.
In 1990-e years to promote cooperation between numerous U.S. and Russian agencies, bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin created the so-called Commission “Mountains-Tchernomyrdin”, named in honor of Vice President al Gore (Al Gore) and then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The result of the work of the Commission “Mountains-Tchernomyrdin” has led to numerous achievements, including the agreement on the disposal of Russian weapons-grade plutonium and uranium, as well as improving the safety and security of nuclear weapons stockpiles.
Bilateral presidential Commission, created by Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2009, was even more promising. The Commission, which consisted of 18 working groups for different sectors, has secured a number of impressive achievements that contributed to the advancement of American interests.
In the field of arms control and non-proliferation, the parties began to implement the new start-3 nuclear arms control, also signed the agreement on weapons-grade plutonium sufficient for the production of 17 thousand nuclear warheads. The Commission Obama-Medvedev also contributed to the promotion of the interests of Washington on containing Iran. In 2010, Russia announced a ban stipulated in the contract of supply to Iran is antiaircraft-rocket complexes With-300. In addition to these two achievements, the Commission Obama-Medvedev provided the interaction between the two parties in the fight against drug trafficking from Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has made Moscow’s permission for transit through the territory of Russia of American military equipment and personnel sent to Afghanistan; increased sales of civil aircraft of American manufacture Russian companies, and even contributed to the expansion of cultural exchange and contacts between citizens of the two countries.
The US has suspended its participation in the work of the Commission in protest against Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. It was an important political gesture, but it was contrary to their own interests in the area of US national security. However, trump could invite Putin to resume cooperation between Washington and Moscow by creating a similar joint structure on the model of the Commission “Mountains-Tchernomyrdin” and “Obama-Medvedev”.
The impetus for the resumption of cooperation must come from the trump and Putin. However, given the investigation that is now under the supervision of the special Prosecutor Robert Mueller regarding the relationship of the tramp with Russia, it would be reasonable and prudent if the President is at least partly distanced itself from this problem and did not show any initiatives to build new institutional structures.
For trump and Putin one option would be to delegate the creation and management of this structure as its Vice — Vice-President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In this case, the Commission “Pens-Medvedev”, would start working by creating a small number of working groups whose aim would be a reduction of the most serious threats to U.S. national security. For example, the working group on nuclear arms control and nuclear proliferation could start discussion on the extension of the validity of the start-3, which expires in February 2021, or the conclusion of a new Treaty to replace start-3.
In another possible composition of the working group should include the Minister of defense of Jim Mattis and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu to resume mostly frozen military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Given the numerous incidents between American and Russian planes in the airspace of Europe, both sides need some kind of official channel in the framework of military cooperation, in order to avoid an incident that could have devastating spiral out of control.
The third working group could be entrusted to find ways of cooperation in Syria and opportunities for coordination against Islamic state (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx. ed.).
Additionally, you must set up a working group that would set rules activities in cyberpatrol. As noted by one analyst, the United States there would be a discussion platform, the body in which it would be possible to focus Russia’s attention on the fact that any signs that Moscow is using hackers to interfere in American elections, would mean serious consequences for Russia. Speech can go about introduction of additional sanctions against Russia, or even the actions of the United States with the purpose of causing harm to the Kremlin. Washington could make public information, for example, about the relationship of Putin with Russian oligarchs or put the Russian President in an awkward position, gathering incriminating evidence about corruption in his immediate environment.
Both sides also need to agree in advance that the overall tension in U.S.-Russian relations should not affect the work of the Commission of the Pence-Medvedev.
It should be clearly understood that to create a successful fee “Pence.” there are serious obstacles. First and foremost, when trying to improve U.S.-Russian relations trump almost certainly would have faced serious internal political constraints, especially given the rapidly-moving investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and members of the electoral headquarters of the trump, which the White house is still in chaos. For trump’s attempt to improve relations with Moscow Democrats and even some Republicans will probably assail him with harsh criticism.
Probably trump will face serious resistance within his own administration. And Mattis, and the national security Advisor to McMaster are supporters of a tougher line against Moscow. In addition, the ranks of the main trump’s advisers on foreign policy, the growing discontent due to the policy of inaction and disorganization of the United States.
As for Russia, Putin, apparently, in 2018, will run for a new presidential term. And it is possible that the increased election campaign, Russian politicians will be too busy to show interest and to seek full cooperation with Washington. Moreover, if Putin will displace from the post of Prime Minister Medvedev (who became the object of accusations of bribery, which triggered anti-Kremlin street protests earlier this year), it is even more confusing political situation in Russia and prevent the Kremlin to take any active steps with the aim of rapprochement with Washington.
It is possible that to improve ties with Moscow did not succeed. But to trump us-Russian relations are too important not to try.
Josh Cohen is a former employee of the U.S. Agency for international development (USAID), who led the projects of economic reforms in the countries of the former USSR.