The U.S. Must Engage With Russia
In August, Senator Rand Paul reflected on his recent conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev about the former Soviet leader’s role in passing landmark nuclear-arms agreements with the United States. Dialogue between the U.S. and Russia, Paul argued, remains essential to nuclear-arms reduction today.
I appreciated Rand Paul’s piece on nuclear-arms treaties. His rhetoric wasn’t dripping of partisanship or culture war as so many online are these days, and that was a wonderful change of pace.
Senator Rand Paul’s recent piece describing his visit to Russia suggests he thinks arms-control negotiations and agreements between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. did not exist before the Reagan presidency. This, of course, is not the case, and one hopes that this merely represents standard-issue Republican hagiography of our 40th president (who certainly deserves significant credit, along with Mr. Gorbachev, for his accomplishments) rather than ignorance. This desire to see some sophistication in Senator Paul is undermined somewhat, however, by the precious notion he intimates that Russia’s Parliament is a center of power that is meaningfully independent from President Putin.
Of course we should engage in discussions to preserve existing arms agreements, as every president has since the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed. I expect this commends wide support in Congress and among the U.S. public. Senator Paul’s call to intensify such discussions would have more credibility, however, if he would straightforwardly acknowledge the truly odious nature of the Russian government: brutal, unfree, kleptocratic, and prone to collaboration with slaughter of civilians with chemical weapons and assassinations abroad. It’s not the Germans, or the South Koreans, or the Brazilians who are seeking the ability to disrupt our electoral, and electrical, systems. It’s the Russian government—and they are not our friends.
Senator Paul comments that he hopes “Democrats who have previously been supportive of nuclear-arms reductions will join in these meetings.” Does the senator really need reminding that it is our current Republican president who has made comments about increasing our nuclear stockpile allegedly as much as tenfold? Or that the president has asked Chris Matthews why we make nuclear weapons if we don’t intend to use them? No Democrat has come close to making the comments undermining the work that Gorbachev and Reagan put into ending the Cold War that President Trump has. If the senator cared so much for peace, why would he not bring up these serious issues as well?
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