In his book Diplomacy Henry Kissinger gives readers a peek at what can happen at a Russian-American summit. After Nixon’s trip to China, Kissinger went to Moscow to prepare for an upcoming Nixon/ Brezhnev summit meeting. Brezhnev insisted on taking him on a wild boar hunt at a special hunting dacha, far from Moscow. To Soviet leaders like Brezhnev, you “hunted” for boar while comfortably seated in an elevated blind. Game keepers would attract prey by leading them to the blind by leaving trails of corn. When the pig got close enough, guns blazed and a trophy kill was the prize.
Kissinger was no outdoorsman, and certainly no big game hunter, but Brezhnev insisted. When they were alone (with an interpreter, I assume) the old Russian revealed the real reason for the expedition. Far from any prying ears or microphones, Brezhnev told Kissinger what he really thought about the Chinese Communist leaders. He couldn’t stand them, they were liars and cheats. Needless to say, it was music to Herr Doktor’s ears.
He also gives an account of the first meeting between Nixon and Mao. Nixon started by saying the internal affairs of China were not important. What was important was China’s conduct in world affairs, and how such actions affected the American national interest. In a word, realpolitik. Reasonable estimates put the number of deaths caused by Mao’s insane domestic policies at 60 or 70 million dead. Nixon didn’t care. Normalizing relations with Mao and China was in the best interests of the people of the United States. That was what mattered to Nixon. And it appears as though that’s what matters to Donald Trump.
Russia has issues with our European allies, but not with us. It’s in the best interests of Russia to normalize its relationship with the U.S. And Vladimir Putin, as much or more than Nixon, practices realpolitik. We’ve got around 1300 nuclear bombs to rain on the Russians if need be. They’ve got around 1800 of their own. We don’t like it, and we have to believe neither does Putin. Trump, to his eternal credit, has put this issue on the table. It’s the most important issue in the world. Getting rid of as many nuclear warheads as possible is in the best interest of all humanity. The Crimea is trivial by comparison.
From what I’ve read on the internet lately, no one seems particularly interested in nuclear disarmament any more, aside from Trump. When Reagan was President it was a big deal. When I was a boy in the 50’s Civil Defense was taken seriously. Our teachers told us we might need to hide under our desks if a nuclear bomb went off in our vicinity. We had school evacuation drills, where we all left school in the middle of the day, and walked home. People built bomb shelters. It was taken seriously. Since he’s my age, Trump probably remembers those days as well as I do. He may even hate nuclear weapons as much as I do, and that’s saying something.
They aren’t really weapons, in the traditional meaning of that word. A weapon is used against an enemy soldier, or army. A nuclear bomb is designed to kill everyone, men, women, children, cats and dogs. All die. It’s pure indiscriminate slaughter. It defines inhumanity.
This is how Reagan felt. He had his finger on the button, and if circumstances called for it, he was prepared to give the order which would result in a global holocaust. He absolutely hated that responsibility. What normal American wouldn’t? In a few days Trump will have it. He may be this, and he may be that, but he’s not crazy, and I’ll wager that’s a part of the job he dreads. Just like Reagan, he realizes that these weapons not only must never be used, they should be eliminated. No person, Russian, American, or any other nationality should have the power that Putin and, soon, Trump will have.
Ah, when the Donald and Vladimir meet, what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall. If it goes as well as it could, the world will change. For the better.