Unlike the 1966 farcical film The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, our current political situation with Russia is a lot less farcical.
During the last 75 years, our political alliances and intrigues regarding the old USSR and Russia have changed remarkably. Lately, they have been accused of tampering with our last national election and in undermining the Hillary Clinton campaign. There have been numerous accusations that the Trump campaign team colluded with the Russians in this endeavor. Apparently the most inflammatory accusation that a Republican politician can face is that they ‘met’ with a Russian representative. The leap being taken by the defeated Democrats is that however short or insignificant the meeting may appear, the inference is that they were colluding to defeat Hillary.
Have our politicians been meeting with the Russians? Did the Russians interfere with the election? Did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians? Are the Russians our real enemies? Will they be our enemy in the future?
A brief history. During World War II, Russia was our ally. Of the 60 million people that were killed during WWII, 25 million of these deaths were to Russians. Adolf Hitler and his minions were extremely efficient at murdering and killing soldiers and civilians alike. Russia was in a battle for its very existence and was a hairbreadth from losing. The United States utilized the Lend-Lease program to support and aid Russia. Initially, before the US involvement in the war, material was provided through the British. After we became involved in the war, we provided material directly. How much material? From October 1, 1941 until May 31, 1945, we provided the following: 427,284 trucks, 13,303 combat vehicles, 35,170 motorcycles, 2,328 ordnance service vehicles. 2,6780,000 tons of petroleum products, 4,478,000 tons of food (including spam!) 1,911 steam engines, 66 diesel locomotives, 11,000 various train cars. In addition, the US provided ammo, artillery shells and an entire Ford Motor Company tire production facility! Phew! Have you seen those old WWII films showing the Russians using their multiple rocket (katyusha) launchers? They were all mounted on American made Studebaker trucks! And yet, the Russians to this day will tell you that our contribution to their war effort was minimal.
Once the war was won in Europe, ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin didn’t want us to be his nieces and nephews anymore. The Allies divided Germany; with Russia, Great Britain, France and the US all getting a piece. Berlin was divided into four parts as well, and all four parts were located like an island in the Russian zone. In 1948, the Russians and Uncle Joe decided to halt all ground supply, both trucks and trains, to Berlin. In response, the US initiated the Berlin airlift which lasted from June 24, 1948 until May 12, 1949. Additionally, any nations that were occupied by the Russians during the defeat of the Nazis became mostly unwilling puppet states to the new USSR. The cold war just got colder. The Iron Curtain was draped over eastern Europe.
On August 13, 1961, the Russians (now the USSR) began construction on the Berlin Wall. It was taken down on November 9, 1989 and the USSR again became Russia as the puppet states all chose independence over socialistic domination.
Also during this time, we had that little dust-up commonly referred to as the Cuban Missile Crisis. By all accounts, this event, with Khrushchev and Kennedy playing the alpha male game of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ (except this was in nuclear weapon capability), was the closest the world had been to a total nuclear war.
From the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 until 2000, the Russians did not have as vital a role in world affairs as they had during the ‘good old USSR’ days. But that all changed in 2000 when a former KGB operative named Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. And, as I predicted 15 years ago, Putin’s first priority is to obtain the global prestige it once had and to reestablish the old USSR. The invasion of the Ukraine provides an indication. To gain international attention, he is supporting and fighting for Assad in Syria and has become an ally with Iran. He invaded the Ukraine and got involved with Syria without any recourse or action taken by the United States. At least no action that was going to stop Putin. So that is the brief historical perspective of our past history. Now to answer the questions posed in the third paragraph.
Have our politicians met with the Russians? Absolutely! Both Democrats and Republicans. Let me introduce Sergey Kislyak, the current Russian ambassador to the US.
Mr. Kislyak speaks fluent French and English. He has been the ambassador to the United States since 2008. From all indications, Sergey is a schmoozer and social butterfly to the extent of him being similar to the ‘energizer bunny on steroids.’ He has hosted extravagant dinners for 50 people attended by US government officials involved with formulating Russian policy for the Obama administration, including senior members of the Defense and State Departments! He has interacted with American officials for decades and been a fixture on the Washington scene for the past nine years. He was one of four ambassadors who sat in the front row for a Trump policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel last April. He was introduced to Trump and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kislyak has said, “It is our job to understand, to know people, both on the side of the Republicans and Democrats. I personally have been working in the United States for so long that I know almost everybody.” There are indications that he attended both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. (It appears it is almost impossible to avoid this guy!)
According to Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, “I will reveal a military secret to you: diplomats work, and their work consists of carrying out contacts in the country where they are present. This is on record everywhere. If they do not carry out these contacts, do not participate in negotiations, then they are not diplomats.” Have you seen any of this in the media?
Did the Russians interfere with the election? Another yes, but no one has ever given you the reason why. Firstly, the Russians did not stuff any ballot boxes. What they did do was release a bunch of embarrassing Democratic Committee emails that included the subjects of: the preference of Hillary over Bernie, financial and donor information, how to defend attacks on the Clinton Foundation and the missing Hillary emails, Anthony Wiener, and a defense of Hillary getting paid big bucks for speeches. Why did the Russians do this? Because Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton. Firstly, she supported the Russian protesters that were demonstrating against Putin for taking a third term. Then, when she left the State Department in 2013, she advised President Obama to snub Putin, avoid working with him and turn down any invitations by Putin for a presidential summit. Clinton’s advice reflected her frustration that the so-called US-Russia reset she attempted in 2009 went nowhere. Instead, those relations deteriorated drastically while Clinton was Secretary of State and Russia engaged in destabilizing and belligerent behavior in the Ukraine and Syria. (How do you avoid Putin?)
Donald Trump will no doubt meet with Putin in the near future. That is his style. Russia is now a major power and has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Dialogue must take place at the highest levels. The Obama administration’s policy of ‘ignore them and maybe they will go away,’ will just not work.
Did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians? I am speculating on this one but here it goes: “Why would they?” Because of the dislike that Putin has for Clinton, the Russians did not need any help from the Trump team. So here is my advice to the Democrats, ‘stop witch-hunting for ties between Trump and the Russians and start governing.’ That is what you are paid for!
Are the Russians our real enemies and will they be our enemies in the future? During the height of the Cold War, my late grandfather, a very religious man, said to me, “Don’t worry about the Russians, the bible says the yellow horde will be our enemy.” The yellow horde, of course, is China. I thought this was pretty ballsy as he said this when China wasn’t anywhere near the financial powerhouse they are today. My grandfather said that in 1968!
So, partly because of what my grandfather said, and partly because of my limited knowledge of geopolitics, I am going to make a rather ballsy prediction. The United States and Russia will once again be allies in the future. Additionally, I believe the next big world conflict will be between Russia and China, with the United States aligning with Russian. Why do I make this prediction? China is a country of too many people, over 1.5 billion, and running out of clean water and natural resources. Russia is a country of less than 120 million people with a declining birthrate. Directly north of China is Siberia, the land of unlimited water, timber, oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold and everything else coveted by a country of too many people and declining resources.
This little event could be initiated by an outside event. What would we do if North Korea hit Japan with a missile? What if they hit the US with a missile? What would China do if North Korea was attacked in retaliation? Unfortunately, there are two many itchy fingers on lethal triggers. But when push come to shove, the Russians and Americans have more in common than the Chinese and Russians. We need an open dialogue with both countries. Avoidance doesn’t work.