We were enjoying a lecture about the life and times of Russian Premier Vladimir Putin. The talented speakers included sections about Russian demographics, the rise and fall of the USSR and how the dynamics of Russian imperialistic aims, under Vladimir Putin, would impact on Soviet/ American relations in the new Trump administration.
The Putin Bio synopsis looked familiar to me. Stalin, Khrushchev, Hitler and many other ruling thugs had all ascended to power by eliminating the “equals” around them, until there was no one left standing but the most ruthless of the band. Meglomaniac narcissism seems to be the common personality trait that fueled these power seekers.
The issue of Russia meddling in our recent Presidential elections also was addressed. The practice comes as no surprise to me, although the new administration seems skeptical. Intelligence data seems incontrovertible that Putin and his boys had been meddling in our electoral process. We shouldn’t be too outraged, I thought. Our own CIA had been doing the same, in dozens of countries, since the Second World War. Why do we expect Russia, China and others to eschew the practice when they see it in their national interest?
Another issue brought up, gave me pause to think. With little fan fair, during the George W. Bush administration, hard casings for missile silos had been installed in Poland as part of the U.S. Missile network. No wonder the friggin’ Russians have been so testy of late. The U.S. went literally ballistic when the Russians installed offensive nukes in Cuba during the early 1960’s, precipitating what we then called the “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Nuclear war was a near thing at the time. Luckily, the Russians, in an uncharacteristic pragmatic gesture, backed down from the brink of nuclear war. Why then wouldn’t we expect the Russians to get a little agitated when we do the same thing to them? Russia still has a considerable nuclear stockpile available. And if we push long enough and hard enough, they will probably soon begin to push back. In another similar matter, NATO had the good sense to preclude the Ukraine from becoming a member. Perhaps they and the U.S. correctly assessed that would be pushing the Russians “one bridge too far?”
Many recent books are dedicated to examining Russia and the United States and NATO where steel meets steel along the Fulda gap in Northern Germany. Several divisions of Russian Armor have long been poised to over run defending NATO forces there. Provocative excursions into the three former Soviet Republics, along the Baltic Sea, have tested both the military response capability of NATO and the underlying will to engage with either conventional forces or tactical nukes. It is literally an Armageddon-type, chess game where the stakes are the survival of the planet.
On the other side of the globe, in the South China Sea, the same gamesmanship revolves around the tiny atolls of the Spratley Islands. China is the main antagonist here. They too have both a huge standing army and a considerable nuclear rocket force capable of engaging the world in a war to end all wars. It gives one an appreciation for the skill and perspicacity of the American Intelligence community and our Military. They are playing a deadly game of international chess for real every day. Bless them for their courage and fortitude.
We can but hope that the new American Administration is both cognizant of the international complexities at stake here and aware of the consequences of any precipitous actions. I don’t think several of these totalitarian countries would react well to being advised that “They are fired.”
Say a prayer for those that lead us. Give them the perspicacity to deal with rascals in an even-handed manner that shows not only strength but also probity.
Joseph Xavier Martin