According to six U.S. intelligence agencies, the Russian government interfered with the 2016 elections, and according to Director of Intelligence Dan Coats, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Russian government has been working to interfere with this year's midterm election.

Six months ago, on March 16, President Trump said, “We won’t allow that to happen. We’re doing a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the '18 election. We’ll counteract whatever they do.”

Despite Trump's assurances, it seems little if anything is actually being done to protect our elections — but that may be the least of our worries. According to a March 15 Department of Homeland Security report, the Russian government has successfully hacked into the operating systems of U.S. electrical plants, including nuclear power plants, and into the Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control system.

Proponents of nuclear power say there are myriad nuclear power safety systems. No doubt Russians and Ukrainians were told that before their 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, and the Japanese before their 2011 Fukushima meltdown.

There may be many nuclear power safety systems, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to work. Nuclear power plants and their safety systems are designed and constructed by human beings, and human beings make mistakes. According to the federal government, the 1979 accident and near-meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was caused by "inadequate training" and "human factors."

The exclusion zone around the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in the former Soviet Union, now Ukraine, is 1,004 square miles. That's bigger than Waldo County. More than 300,000 people were displaced and 6 million were affected. Territory half the size of Italy was contaminated.

The exclusion zone around the 2011 Japanese Fukushima meltdown, caused by an earthquake-induced tsunami, is almost 1,500 square miles, and 154,000 people remain displaced from their ancestral lands. But we may never know the full extent of that disaster, as the Japanese government has imposed a news blackout on Fukushima and has been lying about it for seven years. Experts say the abandoned reactor is still spewing radioactive water into the Pacific and that marine life as far away as the U.S. West Coast, more than 5,000 miles away, has elevated levels of radioactive material because of Fukushima.

But that may be child's play next to the dangerously aging Indian Point nuclear power plant a mere 36 miles from midtown Manhattan. The original licenses for two Indian Point units expired years ago, but the units continue to operate.

No one knows what might happen if Russia were to interfere with our electric grid, let alone one or more of our nuclear power plants. It's anyone's guess.

And one can only imagine what might happen if Russia were to interfere with our air traffic control systems.

We have been imposing sanctions on Russia since its 2014 seizure of the Crimea peninsula, and judging from Russia's ongoing interference in our elections, it would seem our sanctions aren't working. Europe has been slow to join the Russia sanctions, as its dependence on Russia's natural gas is strong and growing steadily. Russia is largely self-sufficient, and it can still trade with the rest of the world. In other words, Russia doesn't need us and sanctions aren't the answer.

There is a possible solutions to all of this, and that is to talk, to negotiate. Given the Russian cloud hanging over President Trump's head, it's an open question whether this administration is in a position to carry out such talks. And it will take more than handshakes and photo ops, which is all that seems to have come from Trump's much-heralded meeting with North Korean President Kim Jong Un.

But don't expect Russia to roll over. It won't. Russia is a big, strong country with a proud history. Russia spans 11 time zones, to our five. It is more than 50-percent bigger than the U.S. And rolling over is not in Russian President Vladimir Putin's DNA.

Russia's legitimate national security concerns must be recognized. Russia has been invaded repeatedly for centuries. The rarely mentioned 1917-1923 post-Russian Revolution counter-revolution — supported by, among others, the United States — killed at least 2.7 million Russians. In World War II, the Soviet Union lost 20 million people. We lost 2 percent of that: 400,000.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the George H. W. Bush administration recognized the legitimate security concerns of Russia and agreed to not expand NATO toward Russia's borders, but that agreement has been repeatedly violated. And in the 1990s the U.S. interfered with Russian elections, providing key, aggressive support to candidate and then-president Boris Yeltsin, who sold off state enterprises at fire sale prices to ascending oligarchs and mafiosi while pensioners were reduced to begging in the streets.

If we want true peace with Russia, NATO expansion has to stop. Without this, tension will continue to surface, as it has in Crimea and with Russia's interference in our elections.

And so it boils down to what we want. Do we want containment of Russia, which serves no strategic purpose other than the gratuitous projection of U.S. power — or do we want real peace? Talking with Russia might not produce such a peace, but it's the only real shot we have.

Lawrence Reichard is a first-place Maine Press Association winner, freelance writer and activist who lives in Belfast.