What Trump Can Expect from Putin

President Trump will have his first meeting with President Putin at a time of dangerous U.S.-Russian tensions, amid demands to “get tough,” but ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a former presidential briefer, urges Trump to see Putin’s side.

By Ray McGovern

In the style of a President’s Daily Brief for President Trump:

When you meet with President Putin next week, you can count on him asking you why the U.S. is encircling Russia with antiballistic missile systems.

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Putin regarded the now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the key to maintaining the nuclear-weapons balance between the United States and Russia and told filmmaker Oliver Stone that the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty in 2001 and the follow-on U.S. deployment of ABM batteries could “destroy this balance. And that’s a great mistake.”

For decades, the Russians have viewed an invulnerable nuclear-tipped strategic missile force as a deterrent to a U.S. attack though they have never displayed an inclination to commit suicide by actually firing them.

From this perspective, Putin wonders why the U.S. might seek to upset the nuclear balance by deploying ABM systems around Russia’s borders, making Russia’s ICBM force vulnerable.

Putin’s generals, like yours, are required to impute the most provocative intentions to military capabilities; that is what military intelligence is all about. Thus, they cannot avoid seeing the ABM deployments as giving the U.S. the capability for a first strike to decapitate Russia’s ICBM force and, by doing so, protecting the U.S. from Russian nuclear retaliation.

And, as Putin has made clear, the Kremlin sees U.S. claims that the deployments are needed to thwart a strategic strike from Iran as insultingly disingenuous – all the more so in light of the 2015 multilateral agreement handcuffing Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb for the foreseeable future.

Yet, the U.S.-Russia strategic…

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