Analysis & Opinions - Harvard International Review

The Nuclear Fallout of Trump’s Possible Détente with Putin

| Feb. 16, 2017

While the new US administration should be looking for areas of cooperation with Russia where possible, it should do so without compromising the United States’ principled stance on Ukraine. Any such compromise will have grave repercussions not only for security in Eastern Europe but also for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

“We can talk about the economy, we can talk about social security—the biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation.” Donald Trump, “Meet the Press,” October 1999.

Speaking on February 2, 2017, at the Security Council meeting called by Ukraine in the wake of the renewed escalation of fighting in the Donbas, newly-appointed US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “The United States stands with the people of Ukraine who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military interventions.” She also reassured the world that sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea will remain in place until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.

This, no doubt, came as relief to all those concerned that the desire of President Trump and some in his entourage to partner with Russia might spell tacit acceptance of President Putin’s designs on Ukraine. It is too early for complacency, however, as Trump has earlier changed his stance on a variety of issues. In addition, it is unclear how much attention he pays to what was said at the United Nations. His broader Russia policy remains a mystery. If he does move to set in motion a US-Russian rapprochement, sanctions against Russia will be increasingly difficult to sustain. In the final tally, the Trump administration might judge Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity a bothersome yet insufficient impediment to mending fences with Putin.

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For Academic Citation: Budjeryn, Mariana and Andreas Umland.“The Nuclear Fallout of Trump’s Possible Détente with Putin.” Harvard International Review, February 16, 2017.

The Authors