The prospect of President-elect Donald Trump striking a grand bargain with Russian President Vladimir Putin is unnerving to many traditional U.S. allies, but few stand to lose more than the pro-American leaders of countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Those leaders, fighting on the front line of the battle against Putin’s drive to upend the democratic world order, are asking Trump to think twice before choosing the wrong side, The Washington Post reported.

"Putin does not seek American greatness. As your allies, we do," 17 current and former officials from a range of Central and Eastern European countries wrote in a letter to Trump that The Washington Post obtained. "As your treaty-bound allies, we appeal to Americans in the new U.S. Administration and Congress to stand firm in the defense of our common goals and interests: peace, Atlantic strength, and freedom."

The letter was signed by one sitting European leader, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, and several former heads of government and foreign ministers, including former Romanian president Traian Băsescu, former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former Latvian president Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, and former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister Carl Bildt.

The European leaders wrote that they welcome Trump’s election and look forward to working with the new administration to bolster the transatlantic alliance. But if Trump decides to go the other way and join forces with Putin, they warn, there will be severe negative consequences for both Europe and the United States.

First of all, the Trump administration must not weaken sanctions on Russia or tacitly accept the Russian annexation of Crimea, the European leaders argued. Doing so would not only demoralize the pro-American forces in Ukraine, but would also destabilize the region economically and give comfort to extremist, anti-Western actors.

A grand bargain with Putin that throws Ukraine under the bus would have grave consequences for America’s broader standing in Europe as well, the leaders wrote.

Overall, the European leaders argue that Putin cannot be an ally of the West and that Russian policies have made Europe a more dangerous place for all. Even if a deal is struck, Russia is likely to continue to undermine European democracies through a range of nefarious activities, including cyberattacks, energy and economic pressure, espionage, psychological warfare, disinformation and bribery.

Source: The Washington Post