Instead of Trying to Sabotage the Trump-Putin Meeting, Democrats Should Support Vital Proposals

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By Norman Solomon, the coordinator of the online activist group and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Some leading Democrats in Congress are eager to turn the summit meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin away from avenues for improvements in U.S.-Russian relations, even if that means deflecting it toward World War III.

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that “the White House announced that the meeting with Mr. Putin would be a formal bilateral discussion, rather than a quick pull-aside at the economic summit meeting that some had expected.” Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer criticized the lack of a “specific agenda” for the Trump-Putin discussion and tweeted “the first few things that come to my mind” — 10 items denouncing Russia and not a single step to help avert a nuclear war between that country and the United States.

What a contrast with another Democrat, former Senator Sam Nunn, who signed a June 27 open letter that urged Putin and Trump to focus on “urgently pursuing practical steps now that can stop the downward spiral in relations and reduce real dangers.” The letter emphasized “reducing nuclear and other military risks.”

But these days, apparently, the Democratic leadership in Congress has much bigger fish to fry than merely trying to avert a global nuclear holocaust.

The Democratic Party leaders on Capitol Hill can’t be bothered with squandering much political capital or sound-bite airtime on the matters highlighted by the open letter, which Nunn — a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — signed along with former top British, German and Russian diplomats.

The open letter offered four crucial proposals for the meeting between Trump and Putin:

*  “The starting point could be a new Presidential Joint Declaration by the United States and the Russian Federation declaring that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. This would make clear again that leaders recognize their responsibility to work together to prevent nuclear catastrophe, and would be positively received by global leaders and publics.”

*  “A second step could be to increase military-to-military communication through a new NATO-Russia Military Crisis Management Group. Restarting bilateral military-to-military dialogue between the United States and Russia, essential throughout the Cold War, should be an immediate and urgent priority. The focus of these initiatives should be on reducing risks of a catastrophic mistake or accident by restoring communication and increasing transparency and trust.”

*  “A third step could be to collaborate to prevent ISIS and other terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear and radiological materials through a joint initiative to prevent WMD terrorism. There is an urgent need to cooperate on securing vulnerable radioactive materials that could be used to produce a ‘dirty bomb.’ Such materials are widely available in more than 150 countries and are often found in facilities, such as hospitals and universities, that are poorly secured.”

*  “Fourth, discussions are imperative for reaching at least informal understandings on cyber dangers related to interference in strategic warning systems and nuclear command and control. This should be urgently addressed to prevent war by mistake. That there are no clear ‘rules of the road’ in the strategic nuclear cyber world is alarming.”

But top Democratic Party leaders hardly give high priority to such concerns. On the contrary: For many months now, their preoccupation has been to double, triple and quadruple down on an insidious — and extremely dangerous — political investment. Party leaders have positioned themselves to portray just about any concession from Trump in bilateral talks as a corrupt payoff.

The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, was ringing a familiar bell when she proclaimed on CNN in mid-May: “Every day I ask the question, ‘What do the Russians have on Donald Trump financially, politically or personally that he’s always catering to them?’”

“Given their vehement political investment in demonizing Russia’s President Putin,” I wrote in late April, “Democratic leaders are oriented to seeing the potential of détente with Russia as counterproductive in terms of their electoral strategy for 2018 and 2020. It’s a calculus that boosts the risks of nuclear annihilation, given the very real dangers of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow.”

Days ago, looking ahead to the scheduled discussion between the two presidents at the G-20 summit in Germany, the home page of the Washington Post carried this headline: “Months of Russia controversy leaves Trump ‘boxed in’ before Putin meeting.” The tagline noted that “whatever course Trump takes will likely be called into question.”

Powerful custodians of the USA’s hugely profitable military-industrial complex prefer it that way. They aren’t much interested in any course toward Russia other than antagonism if not belligerence. There is enormous commitment to heading off the “threat” of genuine diplomacy and rapprochement.

Elite guardians of the U.S. warfare state, committed to what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” certainly don’t want a modern-day incarnation of the “spirit of Glassboro” that emerged 50 years ago when President Lyndon Johnson met at length with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin. Standing next to Kosygin at the end of their summit at a New Jersey college, Johnson said: “I have no doubt about it at all” that “it does help a lot to sit down and look a man in the eye all day long and try to reason with him, particularly if he is trying to reason with you.”

If Trump says anything like that after meeting with the Kremlin’s leader this week, you can expect some misguided Democratic partisans to denounce him as a Putin tool.

While many people are eager for constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia, on Capitol Hill the efforts to prevent such a possibility are fierce and unrelenting. Ultra-hawks like Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are among quite a few Republicans doing all they can to prevent genuine diplomacy between Washington and Moscow. But much of the most unhinged rhetoric is coming from Democrats, often with the “progressive” label.

To sample just how far downhill the discourse has gone in the frenzy to take genuine U.S.-Russian diplomacy off the table, consider this tweet that a longtime member of Congress with an antiwar past, Democrat Maxine Waters, sent out a week ago: “When Trump goes to kiss Putin’s ring at the G20 meeting, maybe he should just return to Russia w/ him & their favorite amb. Sergey Kislyak.”

The director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Matthew Rojansky, pointed out days ago: “The momentum in relations between the world’s two big nuclear powers is now so negative, that it really is time to call a halt to anything that looks like further escalation or deterioration.”

Yet that negative momentum is what many members of Congress are trying to increase. Words like “irresponsible” and “reckless” don’t begin to describe what they are doing.

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  1. dontknowitall

    This sad state of affairs reminds me of the old story about fierce internecine war within the Long Island Republican Party structure where a particularly uncompromising chairman was accused of wrecking the party to which he replied “yes, but I will rule over the wreckage”. This is the Democratic Party and shame on Sanders if he doesn’t say something in the interest of peace.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Last I heard from Sanders on this point was him mouthing some watered down version of the anti-Russia bullshit, and thereby doing jack shit to send a message to all of those who hung on his every word during the primaries, losing a golden opportunity to convey that this unhinged fulmination against Russia is not only foolish, but downright dangerous.

      Statesman he is not. Trimmer? Well, you could – increasingly – make a case that he trims his sails to match the foetid winds of political opinion and conventional “wisdom”.

  2. dontknowitall

    The fact the meeting will be a full bilateral affair makes me think Trump sees the Dem conspiracy theory as not having real impact with the voters and he’s free to return to his original tendency of making peace with Russia.

    1. Kevin Horlock

      Agreed to the extent that only people who are already gold-tier members of the Rachel Maddow fan club actually buy that Russia horseshit.

      But Trump’s current tendency is pretty well “do what the MIC tells me to so I can live to see the year 2018” I’d guess. So no peace with Russia. Or anyone else. Same as it ever was.

      1. JL

        I am so tired of Rachel Maddow. I am exposed to it on a pretty much daily basis, and it’s nonstop insinuation and baseless allegation with almost no evidence. I don’t understand how anyone could denounce e.g. Whitewater and Benghazi as witch hunts and fall to see this is exactly the same thing. She clearly learned from Roger Ailes.

        There are so many things people should legitimately be outraged about. Why not stir people into a frenzy over real issues?

        1. Synoia

          Because they do not want to address real issues:

          Endless foreign wars
          Medicare for all
          Campaign Funding


          They focus on Fake Issues through Fake News.

          1. WobblyTelomeres

            More accurately, they focus on eyeballs. That is, advertising revenue. That’s it. That’s why we have a demented circus clown as president. Eyeballs. People couldn’t turn away so the networks fed us more. And more. And more.

        2. Mark P.

          JL wrote: ‘baseless allegation with almost no evidence.’

          Not almost no evidence. They have produced literally no real evidence eight months into this hysteria.

      2. Pespi

        He took the money from Saudi just like his predecessors. He’s a ******** joke and the fact that the democratic party is doubling down on this Russia **** that everyone hates shows what a dead end organization it is. It’s going the way of the Whigs. There might be a democratic party in 20 years, but it will either be a rump party or something entirely new.

        1. Steven

          He took the money from Saudi just like his predecessors.

          Can you furnish a link? (Particularly after the huge arms deal I suspected this was true. But I’ve never had anything to pass along to other people to back my suspicion.

          the democratic party is doubling down on this Russia ****

          Is this the whole party or just the Clinton faction (or is it one and the same)?

          There might be a democratic party in 20 years, but it will either be a rump party or something entirely new.

          Sanders was far from perfect but I will never forgive Clinton and the Democratic Party (which the Clintons apparently see as their personal fiefdom) for stealing the nomination from him and giving the nation Trump.

          Is there anything we can DO besides sit back and observe???

          1. JerseyJeffersonian

            I believe that Pepsi was saying that he took the money from the Saudis to be used to buy weaponry, as has been the case for many years. I didn’t see any implication that President Trump took a bribe, but obviously that’s what you wanted to hear. Rather like those who listen to Rachel Maddow as she blats out the big lies concerning the Russians night after night because they are foolish enough to want to hear that which confirms their biases regardless of whether there is any truth behind it or not. The serpent’s hiss in the ear suffices for these lost souls to convince them that that is what is true…even if not verifiable. At least asking for some sort of link ’cause you so want to have some justification for your preconceived notion makes you less biddable than Maddow’s zombies.

            Now if you want to see someone who took bribes, well, look no further than Obama; he didn’t have the money that Trump had, but he sure wanted that sweet, sweet lucre, too. He held up his end of the bargain with Wall Street and other oligarchical forces in the nation, and he is now engaged in raking it in; book deals, speaking engagements, what have you. Maybe you should be asking for links on that if you truly want to critique the Democrat party and its thoroughgoing disservice to the citizenry in pursuit of their personal paydays.

            Were President Trump’s antics in Saudi Arabia a good idea? Absolutely not. Anything that encourages and supports the Wahabbi stream of Islam is a terrible and pernicious idea. But yep, he inked a deal to get access to all of that money for the MIC. The Saudis have all of that money sitting in limbo at the Fed, so why not repatriate those dollars into the U.S. economy? Or so the logic doubtless ran. Bad idea, as worse allies could scarcely be imagined.

            But guess what? Mr. Trump won the election, largely because the Democrat party is a toxic waste dump, rather like the Republican party. The U.S. is their joint Superfund Site as a result. But he did win, following the Constitutional order. All of this innuendo that is designed to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral result is not only poisonous, but it is a total waste of time and resources, time and resources best devoted to focusing instead on policies. But then the Democrats aren’t interested in policies, at least not policies that would serve to benefit the nation and the general run of its citizenry. They, in tune with the Republicans, serve their own factions in the top 10%, and the Devil take us Deplorables.

            You hate President Trump, and you hate his policies. I get it, and largely join you in your sentiments. But the election is over, it isn’t going to be overturned by promulgation of innuendo, so it’s time to fight it out politically. But frankly, the Democrat party is not at all interested in this course, and if they persist, they will get their asses handed to them in 2018, if for no other reason than that they are not giving the citizens any concrete reason to vote for them, and in this way, they are seriously demotivating potential voters, not only Democrat party members, but independents who often sit in the catbird seat in deciding elections.

            1. Steven

              I don’t “hate President Trump”. I didn’t vote for either him or Killary. But after his reversals on Syria and improved relations with Russia I guess I am ready to believe anything about him (and very little of what he says from this time forward). I am probably at least a closet member of the Deplorables (“America for the Americans!” and maybe a little bit for the rest of the world AFTER we take care of ourselves first.) But even here Trump is backtracking. His ‘wall’ was a thoroughly stupid idea which I’d hoped he would morph into a tariff wall to protect US workers if not the environment.

              What I DO hate is the Democrats who gave us Trump – and that’s about as literal a ‘gave’ as you can get. You’ve heard no doubt about Killary’s ‘pied piper’ strategy?

  3. dontknowitall

    Re Chuck Shumer’s tweet of first ten things that come to Schumer’s mind:

    1- Chuck Schumer
    2- Visa
    3- MasterCard
    4- Citibank
    5- Goldman S.
    6- Upper Eastside millionaires
    7- Connecticut billionaires
    8- Silicon Valley billionaires
    9- Hollywood billionaires
    10- did I say Chuck Shumer?

  4. Kevin Horlock

    The title of this article would appear to assume that either half of our despicable monoparty cares about anything other than political point-scoring.

    Can’t imagine that’s ever really been true. More’s the pity.

  5. Carolinian

    Clearly Maxine Waters is a leading example of what BAR calls the black misleadership class. Someone should tell her that MLK was a man of peace. Of course he too was accused of being a commie sympathizer by people like Maxine Waters.

  6. Synoia

    Pelosi: ‘What do the Russians have on Donald Trump financially, politically or personally that he’s always catering to them?’”

    Please, Mrs Pelosi, list the “catering” incidents.

  7. Elizabeth Burton

    A bit off-topic, but am I the only one who notices that suddenly the media are actively conflating “progressives” with corporate, establishment Democrats?

  8. Taras77

    Noted on another site that people (neocons/dems) are clearly panicked and are attempting to ensure that Fiona Hill attends the meeting. She is formerly of brookings, now on mcmaster’s staff; she is known for her vicious hatred of Putin, as illustrated by her book.

    Reportedly, she is in Hamburg waiting for trump.

    I would recommend to Putin to say the hell with it if she or anyother vicious neocon attends-either that, OR, then just trump/putin and interpreters-that would send the neocons over the edge in hysteria.

  9. djrichard

    Trump and Putin are both evil don’t you know. And you don’t negotiate with evil.

  10. Dwight

    Sent to Tim Kaine and Mark Warner:

    Democratic Party should stop interfering in potential nuclear detente

    Please support Sam Nunn’s letter to Trump and Putin, available at the website of the European Leadership Network.

    Please stop your Party’s dangerous and unnecessary interference in the potential for nuclear detente at the G-20 Summit, as urged by Norman Solomon in his Naked Capitalism article “Instead of Trying to Sabotage the Trump-Putin Meeting, Democrats Should Support Vital Proposals.”

  11. Steven

    “warfare state” or hanging onto the US role of supplying the world’s reserve currency?

    Without wishing to minimize the influence of the US military industrial complex (MIC) on US foreign policy, I’ve been wondering if it is really the MIC that’s driving the train. There is no more powerful and effective way of seizing the world’s wealth than just writing a hot check. Especially since the Clintons, it seems pretty safe to assume the Democratic Party is owned lock, stock and barrel by Wall Street and its banks. So if say Russia, China or Iran were to say:

    “Enough! We already hold more of your ‘debts that can’t be repaid (and) won’t be’. We don’t want any more.’

    wouldn’t that be grounds for blowing up the world?

    Then there are all those (wealthy) angry constituents who would have to pay taxes rather than just having their government borrow from foreigners.

  12. Ishmael

    I have not voted in the last 4 presidential elections because the choices make me queasy and I refuse to vote for the lesser evil. No write in for Bernie Sanders because he is just as incompetent as Hitlary.

    The Democrats can not back off and say their positions in the election — identity politics — were loser positions so all they are left with is Russian hysteria.

    Now maybe I am a deep Russian agent because when Hitlary ran in 2007/2008 I said she would never be president. She has so many personal flaws that Nixon compared to her was an angel. She is very unlikeable and as even her campaign manager said, she can not stop lying.

    If you want to get a true view of Hitlary look at her book — It Takes a Village. Right there is her core belief. The government should take over the management of everything. Well if you look around you will see the government can only do two things well — kill people and put people in prison.

    Now don’t jump all over me. I hate McCain and Graham and would vote for Tulsi Gabbard in a second.

  13. ronnie mitchell

    Typical of US’s politically mindless set trying to claim the higher/rational ground, crafting a letter of proposals that are nothing more than a list of what Putin has been suggesting over and over to anyone from the US that will listen.

    Oliver Stone listened, and in one of the (four) interviews recently aired (and attacked by media people that didn’t watch it) you hear Putin calling for everything on that short list (and more), he called for joint work in international cyber security, a return to diplomacy instead of ratcheting up aggressive positions (reinstating the nuclear arms freeze), and (for the umpteenth time) calling for a real coalition against global terrorism.

  14. EoinW

    The problem with these points or any agreements is that Russia does not have a partner for peace.

    On the first point, the neocons clearly believe they can win a first strike nuclear war. What good would a presidential statement against nuclear war be when Trump is catering to every Zionist-Neocon whim? Besides, Trump could make such a statement then turn around and tweet the exact opposite.

    As for the second step, the Russians have continually agreed to this in Syria and the Americans – pick your faction – have stabbed them in the back every time. America’s word is of no serious value any longer. American politicians talk simply to feed the fake news MSM.

    Regarding the third point, how about an agreement for America and its allies to stop supporting terrorist groups, like ISIS? Heck the entire Saudi regime is a giant terrorist organisation and is getting more support then ever from western countries. Even Israel sees the value in each country’s extremist views. Of course the Americans would counter with accusations of Iranian terrorism or Hizbollah. How can the two sides work against terrorism when they don’t even agree who are terrorist? In the Middle East agreement will never be possible because the west’s definition of terrorism is any group Israel doesn’t like. And Israel’s foreign policy is to create failed states throughout the region.

    Finally, the biggest creators of cyber malware are the Americans. How realistic is it to get them to stop? A bit like Elliott Ness asking Al Capone to stop selling alcohol.

    Sorry but America is now beyond the pale. With Trump there was a slight chance a non-politician might change things for the better. That hope is now long gone. The only positive result left is the idea Trump can create so much internal conflict we’ll get Americans fighting with Americans. I’m not trying to wish ill towards my American friends because I would hope such internal conflicts will engulf the entire west. In Canada I’ve been witnessing the recent 99% freak out over Omar Khadr. I’ve discovered one cannot reason with these people, they are neanderthals. Which explains why the West continues to destroy lives and societies overseas. The only way i see it stopping is for Americans and westerners to turn their weapons on themselves. That, at least, would be better than killing innocent people in the Middle East. But Russia coming up with any meaningful agreement America will honour? Not in a million years!

  15. Leslie A. Graves

    Russia stole the Prez election for Trump, and you are crying about Democrats not being helpful to Putin? Give me a break…

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