As one who advised President Reagan on how to end the Cold War, I welcome your plans to discuss US-Russian relations tomorrow, January 28. Relations have reached a state that is dangerous for both our countries and, in fact, the entire world. One brief conversation cannot resolve the contentions issues, but it can reject the widespread but false assumption that the fundamental interests of our two countries are in conflict.
Details of the conversation should remain confidential, but I would hope that, after the call, both presidents or their spokespersons could make comments along these lines:
1. The presidents agreed that there is no good reason to consider their countries enemies and there are compelling reasons for the United States and Russia to cooperate in solving common problems.
2. The presidents recognize that a nuclear war would be catastrophic for humanity, must never be fought, and that their countries bear a special responsibility to cooperate to reduce the nuclear danger and prevent further proliferation.
3. Regarding specific issues, they agree to begin, on an urgent basis, consultations with each other and with allies and neighbors regarding ways in which current confrontations could be replaced by cooperation.
One question that will inevitably arise regards the continuation of U.S. sanctions on Russia. In my view, these sanctions are now doing more harm than good, but I would hope that decisions regarding them would be made in concert with U.S. allies, who have been pressed by the United States to adopt them. Perhaps President Trump could state that he agrees that sanctions are incompatible with the sort of relationship he seeks with Russia, and he intends to explore ways to create conditions that make them unnecessary.
Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
Special Assistant to President Reagan, 1983-86
U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, 1987-91
January 27, 2017