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From Détente with the Soviet Union under Reagan and Gorbachev to Open Confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and Syria – Washington’s Russia Policy under Donald Trump is the same as it was under Barack Obama.

Posted by Scott Rohter on Monday, July 24, 2017


Wrecking Russian-American Relations becomes a Bipartisan Effort

Trump’s Attitude toward Moscow not much different than Obama’s


By Scott Rohter, September 2015 Updated July 2017


Dateline: July 24, 2017 Congress has passed a new and tougher sanctions bill against Russia. What is even more troubling than that is that President Trump has just signed the new legislation into law. The Cold War is beginning to heat up again…


Someone has coined a new word to describe Washington’s bellicose foreign policy attitude towards Russia. Ever since the end of World War II and increasingly under the last four American Presidents, the United States has looked at Russia with an equal measure of fear and contempt.  The word that is now being used in some circles to describe Washington’s attitude of intransigence and indifference toward Russia is “triumphalism”…  Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, American presidents have been treating Russia as if it is some kind of a“vanquished foe” rather than a potential strategic world partner and ally. As a result of this, most of our foreign policy initiatives across the world have turned out to be dismal failures. Take for example our effort at regime change in Libya, or Ukraine, or even the seventeen year old wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and just for the record…. If it wasn’t for the Russians ISIS would  still be in control of Syria because it was they who defeated ISIS on the battlefield not American forces. If we could only enlist the help of the Russians  our foreign policy initiatives might stand a better chance of being successful somewhere in the world, but instead we want to keep poking a stick at the Russian bear.

Only during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan did our country enjoy a good relationship with Russia. Ronald Reagan reached out to Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and the two men forged a relationship of peaceful coexistence and cooperation between our two countries. Unfortunately it only lasted until the next American Administration took office and four years later when Bill Clinton took over the friendly relationship with Russia was well on its way to being terminated. The day Ronald Reagan left office was the day that the relationship began to turn sour again, and since then we have been squandering whatever remains of the good will that Reagan and Gorbachev forged. 

Today we are continually placing new and tougher sanctions on Russia as if it is going to get them to capitulate to our will and do what we want. We are treating them as if they are some kind of an adversary instead of a potential strategic ally.  Mutual respect has gone out the window and it has been replaced with mutual contempt. A prominent United States Senator even had the nerve to call Russia, “a gas station masquerading as a country.”  That was one of the worst examples of American diplomacy I have ever witnessed. With  John McCain as the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee nothing good is ever going to come out of Congress with respect to Russia.  Capitol Hill is much too busy investigating false allegations of Russian interference in our last election to worry about the long term implications of its reckless decisions.  The lack of diplomacy that was exhibited by the senior Senator from Arizona doesn’t make the leadership in the Kremlin more less average Russians feel very warm and cozy toward us either. Trading insults doesn’t do anything to reduce tensions between our two countries and thanks to McCain and others like him in Congress America finds itself right in the middle of a developing new Cold War with Russia.



ReaganandGorgachev2American foreign policy toward Russia is rapidly deteriorating.  It has gone from good, to bad, to worse. Gone are the days of détente which existed under Ronald Reagan. In place of that Washington politicians have substituted a foreign policy of open confrontation on just about every issue from anti ballistic missiles s to Ukraine.. America is doing its best to squander all of the good will that we used to enjoy with Russia just thirty years ago.

George Bush and Barack Obama literally thumbed their noses at the accomplishments of Reagan and Gorbachev and worked to undermine their legacy of mutual respect and cooperation. Instead of that Bush unilaterally pulled us out of an intercontinental ballistic missile treaty we signed with them. Now we are back to the Cold War rhetoric of the 1950’s again and the confrontational tactics of the 1960’s. What is even more distressing than that is that many of the so called conservative Republicans in Congress are okay with all of this. They don’t seem to mind the fact that they are destroying the legacy of their Party’s most beloved President.

Just for the record Russia is not our enemy.  Russians were our allies in both World Wars. In fact we couldn’t have defeated Nazi Germany without their help for which we thanked them by rebuilding Germany and Europe while ignoring Russia.  For their part the Russians have not provoked this change in our attitude. They have never attacked any modern Western nation, while western nations have launched numerous attacks upon them most notably.  France under Napoleon, and Germany under Hitler. Each time the Russians were attacked they rallied to defeat their enemies. Now we in the West are provoking the Russians again by financing and supporting a revolution in Ukraine and positioning NATO troops along their western border which is a direct violation of a promise that Ronald Reagan made to Mikhail Gorbachev. Why are we poking a proverbial stick at the normally docile Russian bear?

The United States is imposing stiff economic sanctions against Russia at a time when we are removing economic sanctions against one of America’s  real enemies, the Islamic Republic of Iran.   We have positioned American soldiers in former Warsaw Pact countries when we promised Russian leaders we would never do that, and we are staging military exercises in former Soviet bloc countries based upon a completely non existent Russian threat. Why are we doing this?

We may not like to acknowledge it, but Russia is a great world power and probably one of our biggest competitors in the world, so it is not in our own best interests to keep stoking the flames of confrontation.  The Russians can make life very difficult for us in many areas of the world if they want to.  What is so important about Ukraine or Syria that Barack Obama and Donald Trump are waving  red flags in front of the Russian bear?


Oil and Gas

Ukraine used to be known as the bread basket of Russia. Now it is flat broke thanks to the United States. Ukraine’s biggest creditor is Russia which at the same time they keep blaming for all of their country’s problems. Ukraine owes Russia over two billion dollars for natural gas which they purchased on credit to heat their homes and power their industries. Any country that tries to bail out Ukraine will be taking on a huge financial burden for many years to come. Europe barely has the funds to bail out Greece more less Ukraine which is several times larger than Greece. So what is America’s fascination with Ukraine really all about, and why are we meddling in their internal affairs at the expense of our relationship with Russia? The answer to that  can be summed up in just two words… oil and gas.

Russia has a virtual monopoly on the export of natural gas to Europe and the pipeline that supplies natural gas to Europe runs right through Ukraine. As a result of recent innovations in the oil and gas industry in America, the United States is experiencing a huge surplus of natural gas due to fracking. American oil companies would like to have a piece of the lucrative European natural gas market… They want to export American natural gas to Europe, thus removing the Russian’s monopoly. For their part the Europeans would love to see increased competition in the energy market. It should help to lower  prices… That is why we are meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine. That is why we are starting a new Cold War with Russia… to enrich the pockets of American corporations and investors. The one important lesson we have not learned from World War II is that competition among nations should not be allowed to lead to war.

ReaganGorbachev3The first Cold War began shortly after World War II ended. The victorious Allies divided Germany into two parts, East and West. Berlin, the German capitol was located in the East, but it was also divided into East Berlin and West Berlin. Almost immediately the United States began airlifting supplies into West Berlin.  

That Cold War lasted for more than forty years. It started because Russia and America could not agree to cooperate in the post war reconstruction of Germany.  The Russians wanted a sphere of influence in Germany and we wanted our own separate sphere of influence there… That began to change in 1985 when Ronald Reagan reached out to the Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev in the first of five summit meetings they held.  Russia and America agreed to begin cooperating with each other.  We agreed to mutual respect instead of mutually assured destruction.

As a result of this the hands of the nuclear clock were dialed back and the whole world breathed a collective sigh of relief. By the time of the fifth summit meeting was held in 1988 the practice of détente had proven to be very good for for business too. The Cold War officially ended in 1991 with the breaking up of the old Soviet Union and in its place the creation of the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) of which the Russian Federation is the single largest member. Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post on Christmas Day, December 25th, 1991 and he was succeeded in office by Boris Yeltsin who presided over the transition period…

In retrospect, one of the chief reasons for World War II was competition… competition among nations… competition for land, competition for resources and raw materials, and competition for markets to sell goods and services. In addition, the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI was patently unfair to Germany. It placed a heavy financial burden on Germany for its roll in starting World War I.  The lesson that should be learned from all of the carnage and devastation of World War I and II is that competition among nations should not be allowed to lead to war. Nations need to learn how to compete with each other peacefully.  Then  peace can be managed just as economically as war. That is what détente proved. Peace can be good for business too, but right now we are in the grips of another Cold War that could lead to actual combat if we are not careful. The cause of this freeze in relations with Russia is the current competition between the East and the West interest in and over Ukraine and Syria.

Ukraine is  a contradiction. It is a country that really isn’t a country. On the one hand it stands at the gates of Europe, but it is not part of Europe.. On the other hand it lies on the border with Russia and it shares a long history and cultural ties with Russia.  It stands at the crossroads of both East and West… at the crossroads between two different cultural and political models and two different spheres of influence.  Europe has never been completely comfortable with Russia because of a deep seated fear that if Russia was ever welcomed into the European Union that it would come to dominate the much smaller nations of Europe. 

Europeans have always regarded Russia with distrust and suspicion and therefore they have always kept Russia at arm’s length. The same thing is not true for Ukraine. Although Ukraine has strong Russian ties most Europeans do not believe that Ukraine presents the same kind of existential threat to Europe that Russia does because of its size, but they frequently forget that Ukraine is the place where Russian history and Russian civilization actually began. Ukraine has a special significance to Russians. It has one foot firmly planted in the future of Europe and the other foot firmly rooted in its Russian past.

Ukraine has been an independent country for only fifty years. The ties that hold it together are tenuous and weak. Before it became independent  it was a part of several different empires.. the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian, the Lithuanian, and the Polish… That is why there is so much disagreement between different Ukrainians. There is no common thread that binds all of its people together into one cohesive unit. Ukrainians are not united about virtually anything.  The only solution to the Ukrainian problem is to implement the Minsk Peace Accords which were agreed to by Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine, but the government in Kiev does not want to do that because it calls for the federalization of Ukraine which would mean more local control for the various regions of Ukraine including the Donbas where a separatist movement thrives…  In the absence of enforcing the Minsk Accords  the only other solution would be to divide the country into two parts, but it is none of America’s business how the Europeans and the Russians settle this peculiar problem… We should learn to mind our own damn business for a change…  It is a distinctly European and Russian problem, and competition for oil and gas markets is not worth the price of another World War.

Corroborating Source Material


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