In his November 16 op-ed for The Detroit News, “Trump and Putin: Will the personal relationship matter?”, Melvyn Levitsky asks: “While it would be in both countries’ national interests to try to find areas of cooperation, will [Trump’s and Putin’s] bromance overcome real and potential conflict in the current relationship?” His answer: “I am skeptical.”
Levitsky details the back-and-forth compliments between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, starting in December 2015. He also describes the significant conflicts of interest between their respective countries. Despite any mutual affection between leaders, Levitsky says, “basic national interests remain essentially the same. Russia’s actions on the international stage are largely inimical to U.S. interests. To borrow a phrase from the neo-conservatives, Trump will soon be mugged by reality, if he hasn’t been already.”
In all likelihood, Levitsky predicts, the U.S.-Russian relationship will remain somewhat tense. In response, he advises Trump to adopt Reagan’s “Peace through strength” mantra, which “will do more toward making our relationship with the Russians productive than words of mutual admiration exchanged by the leaders of both countries.”
Melvyn Levitsky is a professor of international policy and practice at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a retired career minister in the U.S. Foreign Service. He spent 35 years as a U.S. diplomat, including as ambassador to Brazil, executive secretary of the State Department, ambassador to Bulgaria, and deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights.