A Russian-American Entente Cordiale?

In 1973, Henry Kissinger was meeting Brezhnev in Moscow, making preparations for Nixon's upcoming visit.  Old Leonid insisted on taking him boar hunting, where they sat alone in a blind with an interpreter, and the Soviet ruler unburdened his soul about the Chinese Communist regime.   "Treacherous barbarians," he called them, and at that moment Kissinger knew that one of the great initiatives of American diplomacy had succeeded.  The Russians wanted an understanding with the United States about their problems with China.  The Chinese wanted one themselves, vis-à-vis Russia, and America was in the catbird seat.  This is all described vividly in Walter Isaacson's Kissinger.

Russia and China are neighbors, two of the world's great powers, and together they dominate the land mass of the world's supercontinent, Eurasia.  They are rivals and will be in perpetuity.  They dislike and distrust each other.  And each would love to have the USA on its side if a dispute arises between the two.  They're the only two countries in the world we have to really worry about.  We want friendly relations with both and want to maintain stability with and between them.

Neither is our geopolitical foe.  Nobody is.  Rivals need not be enemies.  All great powers, including Japan and Western Europe, are entitled to spheres of influence.  Wars are avoided when great powers acknowledge and respect those spheres of influence.  That's the way the world works.

Nothing much has changed, at least in this regard, in the 43 years since Brezhnev revealed the true state of Sino-Soviet relations.  Russia still wants an understanding with us with respect to its China issues.  Our friendship and support of Russia is the most powerful restraint we can have on that country.

Our threats of military involvement in a European war are empty.  The American people admire and respect the people of Estonia; we're just not willing to die for them, or for anybody else, for that matter.  We don't do foreign land wars anymore.   We will do everything we can to discourage Russian imperialism.  They must respect Western Europe's sphere of influence, just as Western Europe must respect theirs.  The United States is a perfect middle man, as long as it respects Russian interests as well as it does Western Europe's.

In 1973, Nixon succeeded with détente, or a lessening of tension, with the Soviet Union.  Now, with Russia, we need to seek entente, or a mutual understanding.

I don't like the idea of the Russians meddling in our elections.  But that does not affect reality.  The Russians, geopolitically, have nothing to fear from us, nor we from them.  And they're the ones with all the ICBMs, too.  Western Europe may have lost the will to live.  Vladimir Putin hasn't.

After 28 continuous years of BushClintonObama, we look to be in for Something Completely Different, and there could be hell to pay.  Donald Trump could say something completely moronic, showing a fundamental ignorance of the world – like "Islam is a religion of peace."   He could say something rash that would undermine our credibility – by, say, drawing line in the sand, and, when it's crossed, pretending nothing happened.

What I don't think he'll do is get us in a European land war, or a war with China.  We've got a thousand troops in Poland to act as a tripwire, making them American hostages in case of war with Russia.  I think Trump would pull them out.  He might pull troops from South Korea, and Japan, and Germany.  Those are three pretty successful countries.  They should be able to stand on their own.  They're our allies, and we will assist them if they are attacked.  We just won't ask American soldiers to die defending someone else's freedom again.  That's off the table.  Neoconservatism was a reaction, in part, in opposition to détente.  One its founders, Richard Perle, explained "Israel was doomed unless U.S. power in the world was maintained."  Today the neocons are among the most strident opponents of Donald Trump, for the same reason they opposed détente.

I believe that Trump would like an understanding with Putin, a Russian-American entente, and the neocons are horrified.  They still believe that the United States must police the world, and the more of it we police, the better they like it.  But this policy made sense only in the Cold War, and the Cold War has been over for a quarter-century.  Today, the Israelis may trust Putin more than they do Obama.  And one feature of our understanding with Russia is our absolute commitment to the security of Israel.  We are a Christian nation, and the home of the Jews is the birthplace of our religion.  We will never abandon them.

Our understanding with Russia could even become cordial.  We're about to join the Russians as one of the great energy exporting countries of the world, as we once were.  If we adopt the Transfer of Public Lands, we could even surpass them.  We can cooperate in the fight against Islamic terrorism and in achieving a balance of power in the Middle East, which they border.  We could even negotiate further reductions in nuclear weapons.

It's time for a nationalist American foreign policy, with malice toward none, charity for all, and a decent respect for the opinion of the other great powers of the world.  Donald Trump, of all people, is showing the way.

Fritz Pettyjohn was the chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, 1979-80 and blogs daily at ReaganProject.com.