New waves of increasingly tough economic sanctions to be imposed on Russia lock the United States onto a path of inevitably increasing tensions with Moscow, reaching a point inadmissible for relations between the two major nuclear powers.
The U.S. Congress and the mainstream media with their dismal approval ratings and loss of public trust are pushing us towards a very grave situation and possibly to a point of no return.
Currently, the famous Doomsday Clock of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stands at only two minutes to midnight – the conflagration of global nuclear war.
We therefore urgently need a new strategy which will take us back to a status of reduced tensions and the revival of mutual coexistence with Russia, China and the rest of the world.
"We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”
— Donald Trump, The Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017
A 10-Point Strategy for the United States to avoid being embroiled in or triggering wider conflicts or a world war:
These 10 proposals are not meant to be comprehensive and exhaustive. They are offered as limited and above all practical recommendations that could realistically be carried out without outraging and mobilizing so many entrenched interest groups and patterns of thinking among U.S. policymakers and opinion shapers as to make their practical implementation impossible.
First, the United States should follow the strategic principles executed by the Roman emperor Trajan at the end of the first century AD.
The U.S. should immediately suspend geopolitical and military expansion of its spheres of influence.
The first two places to halt expansionist policies that threaten to trigger further conflicts and that already require increasing military commitments should be in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Trajan set a literal example in both regions. He withdrew the Roman legions from was then called Dacia (which is today Romania) and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).
Second, the U.S. should prioritize implementation of the Minsk II agreement by working with Russia to end the fighting in Ukraine and getting U.S. advisers out of there.
The U.S. and NATO should also pull their forward deployed forces out of the Baltic region where they are currently only a few hours’ drive from St. Petersburg.
It took the Nazi Wehrmacht, the most formidable military force Europe had seen in 700 years since the Mongols, six months of hard fighting to get that far in 1941. The Nazis went on to besiege Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then known), causing 1.5 million deaths over the next three years.
Third, the United States should renounce further expansion of NATO, with particular reference to Ukraine and Georgia.
Fourth, the United States should end its current "in your face” air and sea patrols which are seen by China as provocations in the South China Sea, and against Russia in the Black and Baltic Seas.
Fifth, Washington should draw down U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan and encourage Tokyo and Seoul to negotiate, with U.S. support and guarantees if necessary, regional bilateral security treaties with North Korea.
Sixth, the U.S. government should seek a "soft landing” end to its current confrontation with Iran, including over the 2015 nuclear agreement, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Seventh, Washington should seek to work constructively with Russia, Turkey and Iran to end the war in Syria.
Eighth, U.S. policymakers immediately need to start giving priority consideration to the danger that forces in any or several U.S. allies, especially small or client states, may deliberately seek to drag the U.S. into catastrophic confrontations, the way Serbia – and France – pulled Russia into World War I in 1914.
Ninth, the U.S. should keep defense spending sufficient to maintain deterrence and second to maintain the support of powerful forces that would otherwise fear policies of restraint might lead to a weakening of deterrence and national power.
Tenth, the U.S. government should work actively and as an urgent priority to structure in – as Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and National Security Advisers Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft did – to create and institutionalize systems to reduce global tensions with the other superpowers Russia and China and build cooperation and trust with them, cautiously and slowly.
The above-described policy should be incrementally but steadily augmented over the decades just as de-escalation was with the Soviet Union in the last two decades of the Cold War.
Unilateral strategic overextension has failed throughout history whenever applied by any power whether it was monarchical, revolutionary, democratic, fascist, communist or theocratic.
For the United States to continue to pursue such a reckless course would inevitably lead to exhaustion, national bankruptcy, diplomatic isolation, eventual catastrophic breakdown of domestic society – and eventually a devastating global conflict.
France experienced such a breakdown after its revolution in the 1790s, Russia did as well during and after World War I, and China went through a full "Century of Humiliation” from 1839 to 1949. In an age of interdependence and nuclear weapons, such developments would have even more lasting and cataclysmic consequences for the United States.
• Martin Sieff is former senior foreign correspondent for the Washington Times and a senior fellow at the American University in Moscow. Edward Lozansky is founder and president of the American University in Moscow. James Jatras is former U.S. diplomat, former foreign policy adviser to the U.S. Senate Republican leadership and Gilbert Doctorow is Independent international affairs analyst based in Brussels.