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Bill Walker
Bill WalkerIndependent, AKCurrent Position:Governorsince January 01, 2014
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Political Article

Fact-Based Article
Russia: Friend or Foe?

During a 2012 presidential debate, when asked who was the biggest threat to America, Republican nominee Mitt Romney answered “Russia”. Though President Obama’s response that “the 80s called and wanted their foreign policy back” was funny at the time, it turns out that Romney was right and the joke is on America as Russia has allegedly hacked us numerous times, taken a leading role in the Middle East, invaded Crimea, and has succeeded on other fronts, including holding a Middle East peace talks summit without inviting the United States to participate.

While Democrats are crying wolf over Russia and its antics, they are leaving a mess for the new administration. So how should a President Donald Trump handle Putin and Russia, and what should he do?

Some Of The Issues & Concerns

The new administration needs to look at several things, including the following list, to determine what we have learned through past actions, inactions, and policy initiatives.

  • Hillary Clinton's so-called "Russian Reset" didn't work?
  • Are they really the ones who have been hacking us?
  • Russia has been building up their military while ours has been degrading. Whose is stronger, and do we really want to have a military conflict?
  • Russia invaded Crimea, and other nearby countries are worried. What should these countries do? What should NATO do? What role should the U.S. play?
  • Many European countries get over 40% or more of their energy from Russia. Does the U.S. want to export our gas to these countries to help reduce their reliance and help them to be more independent?
  • Should we license fracking technology to Russia or any other countries?
  • How much should we support Egypt, Israel, and other Middle East allies, knowing that Russia may take advantage of any weakness on our part?
  • Where does Russia stand on ISIS? Is partnering with them to defeat ISIS a one-off relationship, or could it be beneficial in other areas?
  • How much time, effort, money, and lives do the U.S. want to spend in the Middle East?
  • How can American-Russian relations improve?

 Actions

The Trump Administration should conduct an honest review of past U.S. policies towards Russia and, putting aside campaign rhetoric, ascertain their successes and failures, their strong points, and their weaknesses.

The Trump Administration also should identify where and when it will spend political capital to advance the foreign relationship by offering compromises, and what demands it is going to make of Moscow. Given some divergences in statements during the campaign between Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, it is important to get the new administration onto the same page when it comes to Russia.

Trump’s new national-security team must also free itself of any notion that there is an easy approach to dealing with the Kremlin. Despite real weaknesses, it is not prudent to base U.S. policy on the expectation of a major collapse in Russian capabilities in the near future, as Vladimir Putin retains access to a wide variety of tools which can complicate U.S. policy or raise costs for U.S. actions. They have already shown a willingness to deploy such instruments when they have believed that Russian interests are jeopardized.

Trump and his new team can be successful only if they are willing to make strong foreign relation calls based on their assessment of U.S. values and interests. Taking a sober assessment of Russian strengths and weaknesses and an understanding of where Moscow may stand also will help. But in the end, an understanding both of the costs America is willing to pay and the limits of what can be demanded of Russia will dictate our icy friendship with them. So…how do you think Trump should handle Putin and Russia? 

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