“America can never be conquered. It can only be brought down from within.”
“…Keep on rockin’ in the free world…”
The Cold War started before the guns of World War II had cooled. All of us served in one capacity or another in that forty-four year non-conflict. Many served when the war heated up nearly to the boiling point in faraway Korea and Vietnam. Many lost life or limb and came home with unseen wounds and scars. Many served with Army and Air Force units in Europe. Many served in the Marines and Navy around the world. We won that war. We thought it was over and we were right, but now it’s come round again.
For hundreds of years Russia has cast a covetous eye to the west and south. While she has abundant natural resources one she has always lacked is warm water ports.
Much of Russia’s western ports (Murmansk) are located above the Arctic Circle and are iced in much of the year. Vladivostok is on the Pacific coast and off the beaten track. She has a major naval base on the Crimean Peninsula at Sevastopol but her Black Sea Fleet would have to force its way through both the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles Strait to get to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately the Atlantic.
For much of the nineteenth century Great Britain and Russia engaged in what was then called the Great Game. Russia took and annexed Central Asia with the goal of moving on India which was then the greatest jewel in Britain’s colonial crown. Great Britain moved an army into Afghanistan to block Russia. Unfortunately for Britain, the Afghans didn’t (and still don’t) appreciate foreigners on their soil with guns in their hands. Britain lost an entire army. One doctor managed to make it back to India to tell the tale.
In October, 1917, the government of the Romanov Czars fell to the Bolsheviks. Russia morphed into the Union of Soviet Socialists. Once the Bolshevik (Communist) party had assumed control of the country they continued the programs the Czars had started with an additional goal of taking the Baltic states. Regardless of who holds power in Russia the goal always remains the same. In 1939 the Stalin government signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1942.
By the Spring of 1945 the Soviet Union and the Western Allies (the United States and Great Britain) had driven the German Wehrmacht back into Germany and had captured Berlin. The war had cost the lives of millions of Russian citizens. The Soviets had overrun the Balkan States, Eastern Europe and roughly half of Germany. Stalin occupied the Eastern Europe. He installed puppet Communist governments in each. They would serve as a buffer zone for the Soviet Union in the event Germany tried to invade again. This coalition was known as the Warsaw Pact. Western European countries led by the United States and Great Britain set up their own alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This is where many of us came in. NATO and the Warsaw Pact maintained a state of watchfulness on each other for more than forty years. Many of us were there.
To make a long and complicated story short, the Warsaw Pact came apart and the Communist government of the Soviet Union fell in 1991. Democracy was tried, but after
generations of strict Communist governance the Russian population wasn’t comfortable with freedom. Many yearned for a strong leader. That leader appeared in the person of one Vladimir Putin on December 31, 1999.
Putin had served the Soviet Union as a KGB operative in East Germany (he speaks fluent German). With the fall of the Soviet Union he resigned (rank: lieutenant colonel) and entered politics in Saint Petersburg. He very quickly worked his way up to become Prime Minister and President Boris Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor. On 31 December, 1999 Yeltsin resigned as president. Putin stepped up to replace him and has never looked back.
Putin has shown himself to be the reincarnation of a combination of the Czars and the Communist Party premiers. Political opponents have been tried for various crimes and imprisoned. Ditto political dissidents. Reporters that have been critical of Putin’s activities have been murdered and the crimes remain unsolved. While he hasn’t (yet?) gone to the genocidal extremes of Stalin, Putin obviously intends to not only maintain power in Russia, but he also plans to extend Russian hegemony.
“So, what does any of this have to do with a Cold War that’s long over?” I hear you ask.
I’m glad you brought that up. In 1941 Imperial Japan knew that they couldn’t fight and defeat the United States. They did know that if they could strike and defeat the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack that the United States would be unable to rebuild and strike back before Japan had attained her strategic goals. They obviously misread and underestimated the political will of America’s leadership and the ability of her people to build the war machine that would ultimately crush them and turn two of her cities into radioactive rubble piles.
Putin is thinking along the same lines, I think. He wants to reestablish the East European buffer zone against NATO. He also wants to reestablish the old Russian empire. He knows he doesn’t have to strike the United States or NATO militarily to attain his goals. He’s judged the leadership of both and found them weak. He’s already seized the Crimea from Ukraine and sponsored a revolt for roughly a third of that country to secede and reattach itself to Russia. The Russian (I very nearly typed ‘Soviet’, old habits die hard, I guess) air force is busy bombing rebel and civilian targets in Syria to help prop up the Assad regime. He has, in fact reignited the Cold War.
Putin knows he can never conquer, much less invade, the United States. He also knows that to accomplish his short term and long term strategic goals the United States must be kept out of his way. The best way for him to do this is to divide the United States politically and to keep us divided. Up until this election cycle he’s only had to sit back and watch us divide ourselves. For the last eight years we’ve become expert at doing just that. Since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 we’ve become every bit as divided as we were in 1860. The one big difference is that we’re not divided geographically as we are politically. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
Until Obama was elected I had never heard of demands that an elected president show his birth certificate. Did I miss something in the forty-eight years that I’ve been eligible to vote? I had never heard of demands for any president before Jimmy Carter to show proof of their citizenship. I’ve been a life-long Republican. These days I’m referred to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by people that haven’t been voting nearly as long as I have. I learned in the Army that when we saluted an officer we saluted the rank, not the man. I believe that the office of President is owed a certain amount of respect whether one agrees with his politics or not. Although I didn’t (and wouldn’t) vote for him I believe that Barack H. Obama is the legally elected president of the United States.
The “Birther” Movement that tried (and still tries) to prove that Obama can’t be the legally elected president because he is ‘technically’ an American citizen. The ‘Birthers’ believe that Obama was born in Kenya. Apparently there was a conspiracy when he was born to some day make him the president so that he could drag the country to Hell. They also believe that he’s Muslim. I haven’t read in the Constitution that any particular religion disqualifies a person from holding office, but I digress. One of the leaders of the ‘Birther’ movement has been one Donald J. Trump. He has kept pouring small amounts of gasoline on the birther fire since it’s conception although he denies it in spite of video and audio evidence to the contrary (“Who you gonna believe? Me? Or that lying video?”)
Now Trump is the Republican candidate for president. Against all expectations he managed to defeat a very qualified GOP field of primary candidates. He made every possible mistake that a candidate could possibly make and still won the nomination. The only insult that he hasn’t thrown at his opponents is to accuse any of them of bigamy (see Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel) but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did. To say that Trump has run a very unconventional campaign would be the understatement of the millennium. Trump has proved time and again that he is not qualified to hold the office of president (Nuclear Triad? Why can’t we just nuke ISIS?) yet his supporters don’t care. They claim that during his campaign rants that Trump says what they’re thinking. That thought alone makes me very nervous.
One of the few people that Trump has not insulted (besides his supporters) is Vladimir Putin. Trump claims that he has never met Putin (depending on which Trump interview you believe) but that Putin has said nice things about him so he believes that Putin must be a nice guy. Trump even defended Putin during the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton. Evidently, Putin is a very nice guy. He’s done more to advance Trump’s presidential hopes than probably anyone else.
Russian intelligence services have hacked Democratic Party computers as well as those of Clinton’s campaign staff. They’ve passed hacked emails to Wikileaks which has posted them on the internet for the world to see. Trump has read these emails to the crowds at his rallies. I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t care that they’re stolen goods.
So, we have a foreign power openly interfering in American politics during a presidential election year. I have to wonder why. My theory is that Putin wants an American president that he can not only manipulate but can possibly push around using whatever tricks he learned in the KGB. Trump thinks he’s a lady’s man. He believes that rich as he is he’s entitled to any woman he wants. He took the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. According to Russian intelligence sources, they have plenty of dirt on Trump. A possible honey trap wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility; the Russians are masters at that.
Before any of this information came out Trump had publicly announced that the United States pays too much into NATO. He said that in the event of a war in that region he would have to check the balance sheet of the affected countries to see if they’d payed their dues before we would come to their assistance. Possibly he didn’t realize that we have ground units in Poland? Would he at least try to get them out of harm’s way or would he sacrifice them to ‘Nice Guy’ Putin? I believe that if Trump is elected president he would leave the door to Eastern Europe wide open to Putin’s strategic ambitions. Eastern Europe would be on its own and some of the blood shed would be American.
I’m obviously not a Trump supporter. I haven’t been since I listened to his announcement that he was tossing his hat into the presidential ring. The man disgusts me to be perfectly honest. There are many more reasons that I don’t want to see him sitting in the Oval Office, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll stick to the cold war that’s been reignited. I believe that if/when Trump takes office his butt won’t even have time to warm his chair in the Oval Office before Putin starts making his moves.