By Norman Solomon
March 25, 2021 "Information
Clearing House" - -
Last week’s outbreak of
rhetorical hostilities between the White
House and the Kremlin has heightened the urgent need
for a summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.
The spate of mutual denunciations is catnip for mass
media and fuel for hardliners in both countries. But
for the world at large, under the doomsday shadow of
nuclear arsenals brandished by the United States and
Russia, the latest developments are terribly
Whatever you think of Biden’s
assertion during an ABC News interview
that Russia’s President Putin is “a killer” -- and
whether or not you think the label might apply to
Biden, given his pro-war record -- the existential
imperative of U.S.-Russian relations is to avert a
nuclear war. Biden’s claim during the same interview
that Putin does not have “a soul” indicates that
much of the new president’s foreign-policy thinking
is stuck in a cold-war rut.
No doubt many Americans have welcomed Biden’s
holier-than-thou stance toward Putin. But an
overarching reality is routinely hidden in plain
sight: Everyone’s survival on this planet hinges on
Washington-Moscow conflicts not spinning out of
Let’s face it: Biden is playing to the domestic
anti-Russia gallery in the U.S. media and “defense”
establishment, while making a dangerous mockery of
his own claims to be a champion of diplomatic
approaches to foreign affairs.
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“Diplomacy is back at the center of our
foreign policy,” Biden
said when he spoke at the State
Department in early February. Those who’ve been
heartened by such statements during the first
two months of Biden’s presidency should insist
that he live up to that vow by meeting with the
head of the Russian government.
But it’s now clear that much more is needed from
Biden than just willingness to sit down with Putin.
Biden also needs a major attitude adjustment. He
would greatly benefit from pondering what happened
in a small New Jersey town for a few days in the
early summer of 1967.
Keep in mind that at the time, the Soviet Union
was in the iron grip of Communist Party leader
Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin, who saw
to it that freedom of the press or the right to
publicly dissent did not exist inside their nation.
Compared to those days, Russia under Vladimir Putin
in 2021 has far more freedom in terms of media,
politics and society as a whole.
The Soviet repression and violation of human
rights didn’t stop President Lyndon B. Johnson from
trying to reduce the chances of the world blowing
up. He engaged in real summitry with Kosygin. Their
extended talks on the campus of Glassboro State
College gave rise to what became known as “the
Spirit of Glassboro.”
That spirit signified only a limited
breakthrough. It did not prevent the next year’s
Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, or the continuing
horrific American escalation of the war in Vietnam.
Yet it was genuine diplomatic dialogue -- at the
highest levels of government -- and it decreased the
chances of nuclear annihilation.
In the process, LBJ wouldn’t have dreamed of
proclaiming his Soviet counterpart “a killer” or
declaring him to be without a soul. After more than
a dozen hours of direct talks, Johnson stood next to
Kosygin and, in effect, made a plea for safeguarding
human survival. “We have made further progress in an
effort to improve our understanding of each other’s
thinking on a number of questions,” Johnson said.
Fifty-four years later, with mutual hostility now
at fever pitch in Washington and Moscow, such
understanding is essential. But President Biden is
not showing that he has the wisdom to seek it.
A former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union,
Jack F. Matlock,
wrote last month that “the vital
interests of both countries are endangered when
their governments treat the other as a threat, or
worse, an enemy, rather than as a potential and
necessary partner.” He noted that the shared
challenges include dealing with threats posed by
“nuclear weapons, pandemics, global warming and ever
more destructive technologies if used in warfare.”
Matlock, who served as the top American envoy in
Moscow from 1987 to 1991, added: “Presidents Biden
and Putin now have the opportunity to find ways to
cooperate in dealing with global threats, and
encouraging others to do so as well. That would
constitute a new operating system, suited to the
threats of the present and future rather than
replaying follies of the past.”
No matter how much we might wish to forget or
deny it, we are tied together -- as a matter of
survival -- by a fraying thread of relations between
the United States and Russia.
For those in the USA’s government, media and
general public who don’t want a Biden-Putin summit
to happen, I have a simple question: “Do you want to
reduce the chances of nuclear war?” Assuming the
answer is yes, any opposition to such a summit is
illogical at best.
If the leaders of the two countries with
more than 90 percent of the world’s
nuclear warheads can’t have a summit meeting and
talk with each other, we’re in trouble. Real
Norman Solomon is the national director
of RootsAction.org and the author of many books
including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits
Keep Spinning Us to Death." He was a Bernie Sanders
delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020
Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the
founder and executive director of the Institute for
Public Accuracy. https://www.normansolomon.com
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