There's a possibility for making a better relationship between the United States and Russia, but the knives are out.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met recently in Hamburg, Germany, and had what appeared to be a very constructive meeting. The two discussed a range of issues including the war in Syria, the battle against terrorism, cyber security, and the charges of Russian meddling in the US presidential election last year.
The two leaders were able to strike an agreement for a cease-fire in a section of Syria and coordinate with each other in the battle against ISIS. They agreed to disagree on the claim of Russian hacking.
According to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University, the Trump-Putin meeting may augur a new day in Russia-US relations.
Cohen said the meeting represented a "potentially historic new de'tente, anti-Cold War partnership begun by Trump and Putin." He noted that the relations between the two nuclear-armed superpowers are at their lowest point in decades.
"What we saw today was potentially the most fateful meeting between an American and Russian president since the wartime (World War II)," said Cohen, who witnessed the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings in the 1980s. "The reason is the relationship between the US and Russia is so dangerous."
But Cohen, speaking on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox television on Friday, hours after the meeting, cautioned that the proposed new partnership will likely come under "vicious attack."
How right he was. Over the next few days there was a fierce pushback. On Sunday, three longtime critics of Trump and Russia took to the airwaves to criticize Trump's performance in Hamburg and blast the idea of a partnership.
Neo-con senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said it made no sense to forge a new agreement with Russia without punishing Russia first for the alleged cyber attacks in the US election last fall.
They and others keep insisting that Russian responsibility for the hacking is flat fact, despite serious doubts raised by a number of cyber experts, the fact that the report on the hacking was done not by the FBI but by a company hired by the Democratic National Committee, the fact that the company's chief technical officer is an anti-Putin Russian e'migre', and the fact that a full National Intelligence Estimate on the hacking, involving all 17 intelligence agencies, was never done (contrary to assertions by many politicians and the media).
Speaking on the NBC show "Meet the Press," Graham said Trump gave a "terrific speech" in Poland earlier in the week on his European trip, but then had what he called a "disastrous meeting" with Putin in Germany.
The senator said the president has a "blind spot" on Russia and his attitude that we should "forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyber attacks is to empower Putin and that is exactly what he is doing."
McCain criticized Trump's tweet over the weekend that he "looked forward to working constructively with the Russians" --- actually, a thoroughly laudable goal, in my view.
But McCain demanded that Putin must pay a stiff price for the claimed hacking. "Otherwise he'll be encouraged to do it again," he said.