President Trump has signaled that he will seek dialogue with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Trump has rightly shown that (1) he will resist rigid thinking and outmoded Cold War attitudes, which are too prevalent in both the United States and Russia; and (2) he will pursue relations with Russia grounded on U.S. interests and the search for areas of potential cooperation. But as of now, US and Russia are both moving toward long-term confrontation—or worse.
- Choosing advisors able to carry out high-level strategic analysis and planning. They are rare.
- Demanding a thorough and honest assessment of how the USA and the Russians got into the current mess. All this should have to be done while not accepting at face value that it’s “all the Russians’ fault”—or ours.
- Demanding a fresh assessment of Russia’s long-term interests, strengths and vulnerabilities, and areas of possible accommodation.
- Publicly recommitting the United States as a “European power” and to the NATO Treaty’s Article 5. This is indispensable to earn Europe’s trust and Putin’s respect. The president should have to continue implementing decisions of the Wales and Warsaw NATO summits. The U.S. president’s personal commitments and leadership are crucial. They are the linchpins of U.S. global influence with friends and allies, and of deterring enemies.
- Tying together all elements of relations with Russia, notably Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China.
- Not letting anyally and partner to make the president a prisoner of their own interests, policies and actions; among other dangers, this will weaken president’s hand with Putin.
- Consulting with former U.S. presidents and senior national security officials.
- Meeting with leaders of Germany, Britain, France and the NATO secretary general before Putin. First president should develop his own plans and proposals so as not to go empty-handed to allies, or just to seek advice. They want and need the U.S. president’s vision and strength.
- For tactics, focus should be on arms control, the NATO-Russia Council, Arctic cooperation (already happening), and return to the Helsinki Final Act and OSCE as a de-escalation framework not requiring either side to “lose face.”
- Keeping allies and partners well informed about president’s strategy and decisions.