Presently the state of the relations between the United States and Russia is at an unprecedentedly low and dangerous level. So far the conflict is playing out on the political, economic, and informational fronts but the rhetoric is already reminiscent of a prelude to a direct military clash between the two major nuclear superpowers, if not by design perhaps by accident.
At the same time there are many win-win global projects where Americans and Russians could work together to benefit both nations and mankind. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of our leaders to exercise strategic vision and to find solutions similar to what was done by their predecessors like, for example, John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev during the 1962 Caribbean missile crisis.
The upcoming U.S.-Russia summit might provide such an opportunity if conducted in the "Spirit of the Elbe,” when our countries worked as allies to bring about Victory in Europe or V-E Day to defeat Nazi Germany.
On April 25, 2021 many American and Russian NGOs and individuals celebrated the 76th anniversary of the meeting on the Elbe and launched the movement "Preserve Peace – Plant Trees - Save the Planet” in the Elbe spirit.
This movement calls for the mass planting of trees both to generate good will between nations and for environmental reasons, since according to scientists the earth has enough space to plant an extra trillion trees that would significantly contribute to carbon sequestration.
So far, NGOs and individuals from 21 countries have joined this movement and the list is growing. Five years ago in downtown Moscow, in the presence of U.S. embassy officials, a "Friendship Tree” between the peoples of the United States and Russia was planted. We propose that on the eve of the U.S.-Russia summit Presidents Biden and Putin each plant their respective nations’ friendship trees in the White House and Kremlin gardens together with the participation of other country’s ambassadors as a goodwill gesture towards a successful summit outcome.
It’s time for a real, not a previous fake reset. May the "Spirit of Elbe” help to bring us to a turning point towards better relations between these two great nations.
Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow, Professor of Moscow State and National Research Nuclear Universities. He is the author of the book "Operation Elbe”, which describes joint US – Russia anti-terrorist efforts.