05.06.2019 0

Free of the Mueller probe, President Trump can finally engage in vital nuclear arms talks with Russia, China and others

By Robert Romano

It is no coincidence that not until after Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in his final report to Attorney General William Barr finding no conspiracy or coordination by the Trump campaign with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election that President Donald Trump is now free to act as a president would in engaging in nuclear arms talks with Russia, China and other great powers.

On May 3, speaking with reporters prior to a meeting with Slovak Republic Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, Trump said he had a discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin about nuclear arms in response to a question about the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that expires in 2021.

“We’re talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less, and maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now,” Trump said.

While the Russian collusion probe by the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, beginning in 2016 and not wrapping until March 2019 — which ultimately found that Trump was no Russian agent after all and had nothing to do with the hack of the DNC and John Podesta emails or putting them on Wikileaks —continued on, nuclear arms agreements around the world have been fraying.

The Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia was terminated. Denuclearization talks with North Korea have stalled.

And there’s no question that one of the biggest reasons has been because President Trump’s ability to negotiate was hampered by the ongoing investigation by Mueller. Foreign leaders could hedge that perhaps Trump was a lame duck who might be removed from office soon.

The effort to sabotage the President and his ability to engage in foreign policy by his own security services has unquestionably made the world a more dangerous place.

Now, clear of any charges, Trump is free to negotiate.

Which is good, especially on nuclear arms control. With thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at one another, we need to have a president who can communicate with his counterparts.

Trump also mentioned including China in a new agreement. Which, if you want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists like Islamic State or al Qaeda, or simply to have agreements that are accountable to everyone, you need cooperation among the world’s nuclear powers — all of them. In that context, including China and other nuclear powers should be welcomed. The biggest problem with the INF Treaty was that it did nothing to bind other countries. So, this could be a worthwhile endeavor.

Trump said, “We’re spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, numbers like we’ve never spent before. We need that, but they are also — and China is, frankly, also — we discussed the possibility of a three-way deal instead of a two-way deal.  And China — I’ve already spoken to them; they very much would like to be a part of that deal. In fact, during the trade talks, we started talking about that. They were excited about that. Maybe even more excited than about trade. But they felt very strongly about it.”

Trump continued, “So I think we’re going to probably start up something very shortly between Russia and ourselves, maybe to start off.  And I think China will be added down the road.  We’ll be talking about nonproliferation.  We’ll be talking about a nuclear deal of some kind.  And I think it will be a very comprehensive one.”

In talking, the worst thing that can happen is that we’re not able to come to a full agreement, but dialogue is still better than continuing on the current escalation cycle without communicating. Only the most virulent warmonger ready to start World War III over the DNC emails would find fault here.

And here’s the thing, with New START expiring in Feb. 2021 with the option to extend to 2026, Trump, and only Trump can really do anything about it. There will be a matter of weeks after the next inauguration for a new president to perhaps come to a deal, but careful negotiations can take months and years. Extending is okay but improving and strengthening the agreement and extending the scope to non-signatories should be a focus.

Either way, the groundwork needs to be laid right now. There is too much at stake.

Stopping nuclear arms proliferation is not a partisan issue. It is an area of policy that affects every living being on this planet, and is where President Trump could really use the voices of both parties to help deescalate the new Cold War we are in. It’s time to let the President be the President and work with his counterparts on nuclear security issues — for all of our sakes.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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