USA Today Viewpoint: Trump’s Instincts on Russia Are Correct

Published in USA Today.

As America allied with the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany, Washington should seek similar cooperation with Moscow to defeat ISIL.

America needs a functional working relationship with Russia. Hillary Clinton understands its importance, having attempted to “reset” relations at the beginning of her tenure as secretary of State.

As late as June 2013, Clinton reportedly told a private audience that she “would love it if we could continue to build a more positive relationship with Russia.”

Donald Trump agrees, but his reasoning is perhaps clearer than Clinton’s. He views the world through the lens of foreign policy realism — the belief that nation-states remain dominant in the global system, and countries seek to pursue their own national interests.

Trump argues that America should develop a foreign policy that recognizes and addresses the most direct threat to our security. He contends that the Islamic State terrorist group, having openly declared its intention to attack the USA, must be dealt with immediately.

Throughout history, nations have often understood that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. As the United States allied with the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany, Washington should seek similar cooperation with Moscow to defeat ISIL.

Chinese expansionism and militarization, as witnessed in the South China Sea, could also shape Trump’s Russia policy. He understands that China, given its economic prowess, is emerging as a superpower.

Trump has warned, “Don’t ever let China and Russia get together.” Pursuing policies that increase the probability of a Sino-Russian alliance are reckless and potentially place America in grave danger.

Certainly, there is much noise surrounding Trump’s Russia policy, the vast majority of which is partisan chatter. When our national interests are considered through the lens of common sense, the current dangerous level of hostility between the United States and Russia — as evidenced by Mr. Putin’s recent nuclear saber rattling — is not justified.

Trump’s instincts to avoid a massive divergence of interests with Russia are correct. Given the geopolitical stakes, it’s certainly worth a try.

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George David Banks is Executive Vice President at the American Council for Capital Formation. He is an economist, political consultant, and policy advocate, focusing on energy, environment, and trade. Banks has published reports and opinion editorials on a variety of policy issues, including climate change, civil nuclear power, and energy markets and trade. He is also a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and a member of the ClearPath Foundation’s advisory board. Most recently, he served as President Donald Trump’s Special Assistant for International Energy and Environment at the National Economic and National Security Councils – a position that required him to manage workstreams related to his portfolio across the federal government.