Another item on the very long laundry list awaiting the next President is the tricky foreign relations situation with Russia. The “relationship” (for lack of a better word) between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has provided endless fodder for everyone from grim faced pundits to late night comics. Well it’s not funny anymore. Things just became very, very real and navigating the pitfalls of dealing with the Russians will be a challenging task for President Trump as long as he’s in office. But if there’s going to be a conversation, it sounds like Putin is ready to jump into the negotiating ring as soon as it’s convenient for The Donald. (CNN)

Within hours of Trump’s victory speech, Putin congratulated the president-elect and flagged Moscow’s willingness to restore ties fully with its old Cold War foe, currently at loggerheads over the Syria conflict…

“(Trump) spoke about resuming and restoring relations with Russia. We understand the way to that will be difficult, taking into account the current state of degradation of relations between the US and Russia,” Putin told Russian state television.

“As I have repeatedly said, that is not our fault that Russia-US relations are in that state. Russia is ready and wants to restore the fully fledged relations with the US. I repeat we understand this will be difficult, but we are ready to play our part in it.”

Let’s be very clear about one thing here. Swearing in a new president doesn’t change the underlying fact that Russia is not our ally. If you don’t care for the word “enemy” they are, at a minimum, an adversary on the global stage. Russia’s global agenda aligns with ours pretty much nowhere. We do some business with them in the private sector and they allow our astronauts to hitch a ride to the ISS in their rockets, but that’s really about it. The values of the west in general and America in particular are best expressed through support for the spreading of democracy, respect for international borders and the independent rule of the people of each nation. None of these concepts fall into Putin’s wheelhouse. Russia a thinly disguised tyranny with elections which are a joke and regular incidences of their own citizens being assassinated in broad daylight or disappeared into whatever dungeons lie below the Kremlin.

These people are not our friends.

With that said, out and out war with Russia isn’t an option unless they lob a nuke at us first. Any battles between us will no doubt remain in the realm of a war of words or proxy battles between smaller states. Still, if we are unable to influence the Russian people to throw off their chains and build an actual democracy, Russia must be dealt with. Trump will need to be able to remain tough in the face of Putin’s routine aggression while finding areas of common interest where we can at least productively cooperate in a civil fashion.

What will Trump do about missile installations in eastern Europe? How about Putin’s intervention in Syria which runs completely contrary to our own goals? The Russians have their only full scale aircraft carrier tooling around the region at the moment and that remains a pressing concern. If the Iranians toss a missile our way we can threaten to obliterate their ships. Getting into a shooting match with the Russians would be a far more serious situation.

I know what I’d like to see Trump do in this area, but I’m not the president. I hope that we’ll be getting more details in the coming days, even if he doesn’t want to get too specific on military strategy.

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