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‘Back-Channel’ Link Not Unusual

It is a measure of how topsy-turvy politics has become that a technique some believe averted nuclear war in 1962 now is being condemned. That is, in a word, crazy.

The newest controversy involving President Donald Trump revolves around his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Critics say that before Trump was inaugurated, Kushner made efforts to open a “back-channel” communications link with Russian officials. The term refers to unofficial meetings and discussions.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was asked about it during the weekend.

Kelly’s common-sense reply was that, “It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.”

Informal diplomacy has been used by many, if not all, presidents. Using people such as Kushner to accomplish it also is normal.

In fact, but for the technique, the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 might have exploded into a war between the United States and Russia. Tensions were eased after then-President John F. Kennedy used back-channel communications with his counterpart, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Part of the current controversy involves the secrecy with which Kushner undertook his mission. Really? Much of the value of back-channel communications lies in secrecy.

Looking into Kushner’s communications with Russian officials may be appropriate. Disrupting whatever back channel he established could be dangerous.


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