As bad as relations have become over the last few years, they are still nowhere near as toxic and dangerous as they were at various points during the Cold War. That should show us that the U.S. and Russia have far fewer reasons to be at odds than in the past, and that our disagreements are much more manageable. Present-day Russia also has fewer ambitious goals for its foreign policy than the USSR did and poses much less of a threat to the U.S. and our allies. Nothing compels the U.S. to compete with Russia in its own backyard, and no U.S. interests are threatened by Russia’s maintenance of its handful of clients. In short, the U.S. and Russia do not have to be rivals in most cases, and the U.S. has no need to counter Russia wherever it has influence.
It is important for European stability and international security more generally that the U.S. and Russia fashion a cooperative relationship that will allow both to secure mutual interests and manage their disagreements. When the two powers have been on reasonably good terms, tensions between Russia and its neighbors have also declined, which is in the interests of all concerned.
The benefits of an improved relationship aren’t limited only to Europe. A constructive relationship with Russia is very much needed to address many international problems, including but not limited to terrorism, securing nuclear materials, and resolving long-running conflicts. We have seen hints of what that cooperation can achieve in recent years with the Iran nuclear deal and the new arms reduction treaty with Russia, both of which required sustained diplomatic engagement. In order to repair ties with Russia, our government will need to make a similar effort over the long term, with Washington refraining from taking further provocative actions.
A good place for the Trump administration to start would be to reject the plan to send arms to Ukraine. Such a policy would be unwise in itself—and disastrous for any chance at improving America’s relationship with Russia.
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