From Rea­gan and Gor­bachev to Trump and Putin

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - By L. Todd Wood By Ed­ward Lozan­sky Ed­ward Lozan­sky is pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Univer­sity in Moscow.

Al­though Mikhail Gor­bachev is her­alded through­out the Free World as the man who al­lowed the Soviet Union to crum­ble un­der its own cor­rupt weight, he is not rev­ered at home, not by a long shot, es­pe­cially by the older gen­er­a­tion who re­mem­ber their per­ceived Soviet glory. The ques­tions is fre­quently asked, are Don­ald Trump/Vladimir Putin track­ing the Ron­ald Rea­gan-Mikhail Gor­bachev re­la­tion­ship? Should we ex­pect a sim­i­lar out­come, a vic­to­ri­ous West and a Rus­sia in de­cline, van­quished by the su­pe­rior tech­nol­ogy and lofty morals of the United States and the con­ti­nent?

Al­though there are sim­i­lar­i­ties in the way Mr. Trump is com­ing into of­fice on the heels of a weak, some would say sedi­tious, pres­i­dent who weak­ened Amer­i­can power pur­pose­fully around the globe, the player on the op­po­site side of the table, Mr. Putin, is a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal al­to­gether.

Cur­rently, there is a nat­u­ral re­cal­cu­la­tion tak­ing place around the world. With Mr. Trump fir­ing on Ira­nian drones, shoot­ing down Syr­ian jets, and lob­bing dozens of cruise mis­siles on a Syr­ian air­field with Rus­sian tech­ni­cians just a few hun­dred yards away, it is ob­vi­ous this is not Barack Obama’s for­eign pol­icy. To use a worn out phrase, there is a new sher­iff in town and the our ad­ver­saries are tak­ing no­tice. The Sovi­ets ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar ef­fect when Rea­gan came into of­fice and be­gan talk­ing about shoot­ing down ICBMs be­fore they reached Amer­i­can shores—visionary in­deed. You could make the ar­gu­ment that it was the Strate­gic De­fense Ini­tia­tive (SDI) that brought down the Soviet Union. Mr. Trump has re­cently said the U.S. would win any arms race it’s in­vited to. So in this man­ner, the Trump-Putin re­la­tion­ship is very sim­i­lar in­deed.

How­ever, Mr. Putin is not Gorby. He will not pre­side over an­other weak­en­ing of Rus­sian power, no mat­ter the con­se­quences on the Rus­sian peo­ple do­mes­ti­cally. Mr. Putin played a bad hand mas­ter­fully dur­ing the Obama years. Rus­sia is once again a force to be reck­oned with on the world stage. The Rus­sian pres­i­dent has pushed the ex­act, pa­tri­otic buttons needed to rally the pub­lic be­hind his off­shore ex­ploits and be­hind his gov­ern­ment. Mr. Putin will not al­low a re­peat of the late 1980s, no just the op­po­site. He will leave of­fice and en­shrine Rus­sia’s place as a great power in the world, just as it used to be for cen­turies un­der the tsars.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Krem­lin flag wa­ver. How­ever, the facts are just the facts and I’m not com­ment­ing on the con­se­quences do­mes­ti­cally for Moscow’s ad­ven­tures or the ef­fect of Mr. Putin’s rule on Don­bass or Syria. We are strictly look­ing at the geopo­lit­i­cal chess­board for the sub­ject of this ar­ti­cle.

To­day, the ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle has bro­ken down. It is no longer com­mu­nist evil vs. cap­i­tal­ist free­dom. To­day, we see glob­al­ist masters push­ing an agenda that de­stroys na­tions, cul­tures and the for­got­ten man in fa­vor of a cult of death called Is­lam and its hi-tech em­per­ors.

The West has lost the moral high ground.

West­ern cap­i­tals no longer feel their cul­ture and his­tory are worth sav­ing. Pro­gres­sives have a dif­fer­ent agenda than help­ing their peo­ple be­come more pros­per­ous. When the West van­quished com­mu­nism at the end of the last cen­tury it never went away. It just went un­der­ground in our uni­ver­si­ties and in the me­dia. It has now raised its ugly head un­der the guise of glob­al­ism. In other words, global re­dis­tri­bu­tion. How­ever, as with the Soviet Union, there will al­ways be elites who get to shop at the best stores and travel the world while the pro­le­tariat strug­gles on their com­mu­nal farms in Vladi­vos­tok or Toledo.

Mr. Putin is no longer a com­mu­nist. He is a Rus­sian na­tion­al­ist. He is also smart enough to re­al­ize that the con­cept of a third Holy Ro­man Em­pire started with the tsars af­ter the fall of Con­stantino­ple to the Mus­lims. For this rea­son, he has cul­ti­vated a large fol­low­ing among Chris­tians in the United States and around the world, al­though this sup­port is naive in the sense that it doesn’t un­der­stand Rus­sia will al­ways act for Rus­sia and no one else.

Mr. Putin does have his weak­nesses. The Rus­sian econ­omy is suf­fer­ing un­der sanc­tions and the col­lapse of the price of crude oil on global markets. Rus­sia needs money. How­ever, un­less it can shake off the yoke of the oli­garchs and di­ver­sify its econ­omy and im­prove the rule of law, she will con­tinue to suf­fer.

Demon­stra­tions by a resur­gent po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion have be­gun to sur­pris­ingly thrive across the coun­try. Rus­sian youth are harder to con­trol by state me­dia as so­cial me­dia sup­plants Krem­lin pro­pa­ganda chan­nels.

In short, the strug­gle has changed. And al­though there are some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the Rea­gan/Gor­bachev model, the dif­fer­ences are more pro­nounced.

The West has suc­cumbed to cor­rup­tion, glob­al­ist com­mu­nism and has lost the moral high ground. This was the foun­da­tion of Rea­gan’s suc­cess. We were the shin­ing city on the hill.

Mr.Trump is try­ing to bring this back but the com­mu­nist orks on the Left are throw­ing ev­ery­thing they have at him to stop it, hence the Rus­sians are com­ing! hys­te­ria in Wash­ing­ton. It is far from clear if our new pres­i­dent will suc­ceed. How­ever, I’d bet money that Mr. Putin gets what he wants.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son re­cently said that “Right now, U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions are in the gut­ter but we want to make sure they don’t flush into the sewer.”

I think that what we see is much worse if one adds the cur­rent con­flict es­ca­la­tion in Syria, NATO ad­vance­ment of troops to the Rus­sian bor­ders, fre­quent near col­li­sions of U.S. and Rus­sian planes over the Baltic and Black seas, plus non-stop anti-Rus­sia hys­te­ria in Congress and the me­dia.

In the cur­rent cli­mate, one can ex­pect at al­most any time that the two pow­ers will go into di­rect mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with cat­a­strophic re­sults for all.

It didn’t have to be that way, since dur­ing the sec­ond term of Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush term in of­fice Amer­ica was con­sid­ered by the Rus­sian lead­ers and peo­ples as an ad­mirable and friendly na­tion with whom they were ea­ger to build a new joint and bright fu­ture.

Both Mikhail Gor­bachev and Boris Yeltsin went out of their way to con­vince Wash­ing­ton that Rus­sia was aban­don­ing com­mu­nist ex­pan­sion­ist ide­ol­ogy and was ready to join in the “Euro­pean Home” by em­brac­ing ba­sic West­ern val­ues.

I was a di­rect wit­ness of this process start­ing from Oc­to­ber 1988, when I helped to or­ga­nize many vis­its of Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tions, in­clud­ing dozens of mem­bers of Congress, prom­i­nent for­eign-pol­icy ex­perts, busi­ness­men, univer­sity pro­fes­sors, and even ex­iled Soviet dis­si­dents.

Dur­ing these trips, we had end­less dis­cus­sions with the up­per ech­e­lons of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, mem­bers of par­lia­ment, in­tel­lec­tu­als, stu­dents and the me­dia.

The well-known Wash­ing­ton in­sider Paul Weyrich, founder of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, had di­rect ac­cess to Pres­i­dent Bush and brought to the Oval Of­fice an ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary of these dis­cus­sions. Weyrich urged him to quickly de­velop a plan for Rus­sia’s in­te­gra­tion with the West, some­thing like the Mar­shall Plan, which had worked so well for Ger­many and Ja­pan in the wake of World War II.

This was a unique his­toric mo­ment made pos­si­ble by the hard work of Rea­gan and Gor­bachev when Rus­sia was ready to be­come part of the West. Un­for­tu­nately, Bush lacked the vision of Rea­gan or was over­pow­ered by the “deep state” which finds it more use­ful to have Rus­sia as a foe than as a friend.

Our pro­posal was largely ig­nored ex­cept for Bush mak­ing some empty prom­ises not to ex­pand NATO east­ward and propos­ing to build a new se­cu­rity arc from Van­cou­ver to Vladi­vos­tok.

The rest of the dam­age has been done by Ge­orge W. Bush, Bill Clin­ton and the Barack Obama/Hil­lary Clin­ton teams: NATO ex­pan­sion, Mid­dle East wars, democ­racy pro­mo­tion cru­sades, sup­port of the coup in Ukraine and many other covert and overt ac­tions which brought us to the dis­mal state in U.S. – Rus­sia re­la­tions that we find our­selves in right now.

There were some ex­pec­ta­tions that Pres­i­dent Trump could re­verse this dan­ger­ous trend and try to re­pair the dam­age done by his pre­de­ces­sors. At least he pledged this dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. But so far, we do not see too many en­cour­ag­ing steps in this di­rec­tion.

This brings us to the ques­tion of what to do now. The an­swers can be found in the notso-dis­tant past, in the ac­tions of Rea­gan, who is now rev­ered by most Amer­i­cans of all po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions, even by those who did not sup­port him dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial terms.

Why was it all right for Rea­gan to find a com­mon lan­guage with Gor­bachev and the thenCom­mu­nist USSR while any sug­ges­tion from Mr. Trump to at­tempt the same with Vladimir Putin and post-Com­mu­nist Rus­sia leads to calls for his im­peach­ment?

For­tu­nately, not only are the ma­jor de­tails of the Rea­ganGor­bachev ne­go­ti­a­tions and deals read­ily avail­able, but we have among us many mem­bers of Rea­gan’s in­ner cir­cle with whom we can con­sult: James Baker, Bill Ben­nett, Pat Buchanan, Chas Free­man, Suzanne Massie, Jack Mat­lock, Ed­win Meese, Dana Rohrabacher, Ge­orge Shultz, David Stock­man. There are many oth­ers to whom I must apol­o­gize for not men­tion­ing them.

We need their ad­vice about how to re­solve this cri­sis and the time is now.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are ex­pected to meet on the mar­gins of the G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg, Ger­many (July 7-8, 2017), a date that is quickly ap­proach­ing. The good news is that both pres­i­dents are ea­ger to work to­ward a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship.

How­ever, we need Rea­gan’s wise men to help over­come the ef­forts of those who have other goals and ob­jec­tives which have noth­ing to do with the se­cu­rity of the United States and sur­vival of hu­man­ity.

This is what Rea­gan said about the op­po­nents of his nu­clear deal with Mr. Gor­bachev: “[S]ome of the peo­ple who are ob­ject­ing the most ... whether they re­al­ize it or not, those peo­ple ba­si­cally down in their deep­est thoughts have ac­cepted that war is in­evitable.”

There is no time left for po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing. Mr. Trump should get on with what he promised dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign us­ing Rea­gan’s ban­ner.

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