What Trump should say to Putin

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ed­i­to­rial ran in the Wash­ing­ton Post:

Al­though Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump likes to rely on his in­stincts, this week’s meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Ham­burg, Ger­many, calls for care­ful prepa­ra­tion and straight talk.

Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, H.R. McMaster, told re­porters that “we have no spe­cific agenda” and “it’s what­ever the pres­i­dent wants to talk about.” This is far too ca­sual and risky.

While Putin’s ac­tions at home and abroad are of­ten ob­jec­tion­able, an ex­change in per­son with him can help avoid mis­trust and mis­per­cep­tions, of which there are plenty. Trump should set aside his stated ad­mi­ra­tion for Putin’s strong­man ten­den­cies and in­stead con­front the Rus­sian pres­i­dent with dif­fi­cult ques­tions. This meet­ing is not about be­ing friends but about ur­gent busi­ness. The agenda is rather full.

Trump sim­ply can­not fail to ad­mon­ish Putin for Russia’s at­tempts to med­dle in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. He ought to make it un­mis­tak­ably clear to Putin that the United States will not re­treat from the sanc­tions im­posed over Ukraine un­til the con­di­tions of peace agree­ments are met. with an eye to­ward avoid­ing di­rect hos­til­i­ties. And Trump should at least try to per­suade Putin to ac­knowl­edge the need for a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment not headed by Bashar al-As­sad and a re­gion not dom­i­nated by Iran.

Trump might also sug­gest restart­ing broader Rus­sian-Amer­i­can mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Even in the dark­est days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union com­mu­ni­cated with each other, and the need is no less to­day.

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