In show business, the performance must go on despite glitches, an actor who is ill or a stage prop that refuses to drop.
Despite current disagreements between the United States and Russia, this show too should go on.
There has been much huffing and puffing between the two countries, as well as by the pundits who see what they think is long-term wreckage of U.S.-Russian relations while overlooking recent history.
Take a deep breath, folks. We have seen this act many times before, both during and after the Cold War. Each country finds ways to poke at the other, even while recognizing that there are important issues on which they can and must cooperate.
We had a long Cold War of mutual antagonism and competition that almost resulted in a Cuban missile crisis spinning out of control and conflicts over Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan. Even then, the countries were able to negotiate agreements and make progress on other important issues.
Since the end of the Cold War, there have continued to be major disagreements over the expansion of NATO to the borders of Russia – despite promises to the contrary by President George H.W. Bush — the Georgia conflict, the breakup of Yugoslavia that led to the American bombing of Russian ally Serbia and the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya..
And there have been more recent slights. In 2012, the United States finally terminated the archaic Jackson-Vanik Act that punished the old Soviet Union for blocking the exodus of Russian Jews. But the U.S. tied that together with enacting the Magnitsky Act that singled out Russia for human rights abuses. In response, Russian banned American adoption of Russian orphans.
Obama described Putin as having a “slouch,” and in turn, Putin finds it in his political interest to irritate the U.S. The Russians provide asylum to leaker Edward Snowden? The already fragile US-Russia relationship slides even further. In the end, President Obama, attempting to show he can play the tit-for-tat playground game, cancels the planned summit in September.
Housed Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, not normally thought of as a dove, pointed out the juvenile behavior on both sides:
“One thing we can do is realize that Russia is maybe not our best friend at all times. This street doesn’t go just one way. We caught some people here from Russia and we didn’t automatically turn them over to them. This is a chance for them to stick their finger in our eye. We’re acting like children on this.”
But there are too many issues on which the two countries must deal with each other whether we like, admire, respect or even see into each other’s souls.
There is, for instance, the question of the huge remaining stockpile of over 17,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, 95% of which remain in American or Russian hands.
There are negotiations with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs, where the two countries have worked together to impose sanctions and work for a diplomatic solution.
There is continued cooperation in American resupply in, and impending exit from Afghanistan.
And sometimes there is close collaboration in the fight against international terrorism; most recently the Russians supplied information on the perpetrators of the Boston bombings.
The U.S. and Russia need to be constantly talking to each other. Hey, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel phoned the Egyptian military leaders 17 times as the new government was preparing to slaughter many hundreds of supporters of ousted President Morsi. Maybe Obama can phone Putin from time to time, even if not in an official summit.
Notably, two days after Obama canceled the summit, the two nations’ defense and foreign ministers met for talks on a variety of national security issues. And the world did not come to an end.
That is just as it should be. The show must go on, domestic political posturing be damned.