Tag Archives: Cold War

Russia needs to change its ways, Mr. President

Mr. President, I know you’re busy hobnobbing with world leaders at the G7 summit, but bear with me for a moment or two.

You’re insistence that Russia be brought back into the group of leading industrialized nations misses at least a couple of  fundamental points.

First, the entire coalition of nations kicked Russia out of its ranks because of Vladimir Putin’s interference in Ukrainian affairs. It was President Obama’s deal; Obama wasn’t “outsmarted” by Putin or anyone else.

Yet you keep blaming your immediate predecessor for matters over which he had little actual singular impact. Knock that off, Mr. President.

Second, Russia is a third-rate industrial and economic power. It can barely feed its people. Several U.S. states produced more Gross Domestic Product than Russia. I’d bet real money that Texas, California, New York and Florida all outperform the Russian economy.

The G7 comprises economic powerhouses, Mr. President. Russia ain’t there. It’s a struggling Third World nation with admittedly lots of nuclear weapons held over from the Soviet days and the Cold War the USSR lost when it competed against the United States.

Why did the Soviet Union collapse? I’ll tell you why. It collapsed because the communists were spent. They ran out of gas. They couldn’t compete any longer with the West, the United States, with anyone. It faded into oblivion and left behind a corrupt, crime-ridden government that sought to create some form of “democratic” rule, but has devolved into the authoritarian system you seem to admire.

And why in the world do you want to be partners with a nation that attacked our electoral system in 2016? Oh, wait! I almost forgot! Putin said he didn’t do it and you believe him over the word of our crack intelligence team that says the Russians attacked us with the aim of getting you elected president.

Russia doesn’t deserve to be a part of any sort of coalition of industrialized powers. Not until it actually becomes one.

And for crying out loud, Mr. President, not until you finally, if ever, condemn the Russians for attacking the system of government you swore you would protect.

Your kowtowing to the Russians makes me sick.

Then again, so do you!

Mea culpa: Mitt was right about Russia

It’s time to admit I was wrong about something back in 2012.

Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney — the freshman U.S. senator from Utah — declared that Russia was the nation’s No. 1 “geopolitical foe.”

I was among the Americans who scoffed at Sen. Romney’s assertion. I supported President Obama’s re-election and the president was seeking to make the case that Russia didn’t pose the threat that Romney said it did.

Obama was wrong. So was I. However, I take little comfort in knowing that millions of other Americans also were wrong.

We now are learning the hard truth about what Romney said in 2012. Russia has cemented its role as the nation’s premier threat.

Yes, we also have international terror organizations that pose serious and dire danger to this country. President Obama sought to tell Sen. Romney in 2012 during a presidential campaign debate that the “cold war has been over for 20 years.” While that is true, the Russia that emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union has threatened the integrity of our electoral system.

The current president of the United States, Donald Trump, doesn’t act as if he believes it. He gives Russian strongman/tyrant Vladimir Putin a pass on Russia’s 2016 electoral assault. He denigrates our nation’s intelligence network in the process.

None of us who criticized Mitt Romney in 2012 should be as blasé as Trump is about Russia. I am concerned about what Russia is capable of doing.

Does Russia pose a direct military threat to this country? I do not believe that is the case, although they do possess a substantial nuclear arsenal developed by the USSR.

Russia, though, is a third- or perhaps fourth-rate economic power.

However, the Russians are capable of inflicting significant damage via their cyber capabilities. They have done so already. They will do so again.

Thus, they pose the most serious threat to this nation.

Mitt Romney was right.

Trump parrots Kremlin line on Afghanistan

It’s impossible to believe that Donald Trump has said anything that, by itself, would doom his presidency. He has said so much, so often and with such idiocy that he should have been shown the door long ago.

Get a load, though, of what blurted from his pie hole during a 90-minute press availability in the Cabinet Room. He said the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 because “terrorists” were entering the USSR and that the Soviets were justified in responding as they did in invading the neighboring nation.

It’s been said already by others, but I’ll reiterate it here: The only other place where that fiction has been told has been in the Kremlin, where the Russian government is headquartered. No one else on Earth has ever said out loud and in public that terrorist incursions were the reason that the USSR invaded Afghanistan and fought the Afghans for a decade.

Which begs the question: What in the name of revisionist history is the president doing here? Some have suggested he is speaking the Russian line because he actually believes it, that the Russians have penetrated his skull with propaganda that no one else actually believes. Others suggest that Donald Trump, whose astonishing ignorance takes our breath away, simply doesn’t know what he’s saying, but that he is in love with the sound of his own voice.

The Wall Street Journal, with its right-leaning editorial page, has skewered the president with an editorial today. It said, “We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American president.” Just think: The WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a friend and ally of Trump who also owns the president’s favorite cable TV network, Fox News.

I do not know what prompted Trump’s utterly ridiculous assertion. The best case is that it is the product of blind ignorance. The worst case is that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has something on the president, that Trump is now officially frightened to the point of reciting Russian propaganda regarding one of the signature episodes of the Cold War.

Whatever the case, for the president of the United States to so egregiously mischaracterize one of the world’s darkest moments is frightening on its face.

Donald Trump is unfit to occupy his high and exalted office.

How about returning to the moon? How about going farther?

President Kennedy already had initiated the race to the moon. The United States was a distant second to the Soviet Union when he declared his intention to ensure that we “send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s.

Then the president implored us on. “We don’t do these things because they are easy,” he said. “We do them because they are hard.”

Well, Americans got to the moon first. It was 49 years ago today that the late Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the moon’s dusty surface and pronounced, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He thrilled the folks back home. Not just in our country, but everywhere. Perhaps even in the Soviet Union.

Mission accomplished.

We sent several more missions to the moon. Astronauts planted flags, dug up lunar dirt and brought it back, they drove around on “lunar dune buggies,” and one of them — the first American in space, the late Alan Shepard — even hit a chip shot that went for “miles and miles.”

Then we stopped going to the moon. It became too expensive. The public lost interest. We won the race. The act of launching three people into space aboard a flaming rocket carrying many thousands of pounds of flammable fuel no longer fascinated the American public.

I am one American who lived through that exciting time. I want them to return.

Subsequent presidents have given somewhat tepid support for the initiative of returning to deep space. The end of the Cold War in 1991 removed the Soviet Union from the world landscape. The Soviet descendants, though, have continued to send explorers into space. They now carry passengers with them. Some of them are Americans.

I am acutely aware of the expense of such exploration. However, it was what we were put on this Earth to do, to reach beyond our planetary comfort and to learn more about the world beyond.

Donald J. Trump has continued the presidential push — such as it’s been — to return one day to space. I want NASA to redevelop its own manned program. It’s what we do — and we do it well.

My sense is that enough time has passed since the last moon mission that we’ll get quite excited when the next rocket blasts off into the heavens with crews that will take the next “giant leap for mankind.”

So, what about nuclear preparedness?

Hawaii residents were shaken to their core over the weekend when they thought for what seemed like forever that they were going to be blown to bits in a nuclear attack.

Their cell phones sounded an alarm and it took 38 minutes for them to learn the truth: It was a false alarm.

But, this incident begs many questions. Why did it take so long to call off the statewide panic? How did an employee “push the wrong button”?

And then there’s this: What kind of preparation are other communities throughout the United States making in case of a real nuclear attack?

I’ve been thinking about that for the past day or so. What would happen if some enemy nation launched missiles aimed at a Department of Energy facility just northeast of Amarillo, Texas? You know about which I am mentioning here: Pantex, the sprawling compound in Carson County where this nation stores nuclear warheads. Many of us here refer to it light-heartedly as “The Bomb Factory.”

But it’s no joke. They do serious work out there.

What has Amarillo done to prepare for such an event?

I have lived in the Texas Panhandle for 23 years. So help me, I never have heard about a community emergency response system. Whatever it is, I don’t know where to go.

I grew up, of course, in the duck-and-cover era when the United States faced off against the Soviet Union, the other nuclear superpower. It was just Uncle Sam vs. the Big Ol’ Bear. Us vs. Them. Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys.

Today’s world is different. The USSR morphed back into Russia, but they’ve still got plenty of nukes. So do several other nations: India, Pakistan, South Africa, China, the UK, France … maybe Israel.

Oh, and North Korea!

The SNAFU in Hawaii has alerted all of us — or at least it should alert us — that the nuclear threat remains dire, perhaps even more so than it was during the Cold War.

Are we prepared? If someone out there has a plan, let’s hear it.

I’m all ears.

Senators concerned about POTUS and the nukes

More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked some tough questions about the president of the United States’ fitness to be in command of the nuclear launch codes.

President Richard Nixon was being swallowed up by the Watergate crisis. Questions arose about whether the president would do something foolish in a moment of intense political anguish.

Concerns arise once again

Flash forward. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of today is now concerned, apparently, with the current president’s ability to handle this awesome responsibility. Senators didn’t come to any conclusions or seek any substantial change in the policy, but they got to air their concerns on the record about Donald John Trump.

As Politico reports: “We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that yielded few clear answers about checks on the commander in chief’s power. “Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment.”

Though Republicans were not as vocal about their concern, some did express worry that one person alone can make the decision to launch a nuclear war.

The president hasn’t yet demonstrated the complete understanding of command and control. He keeps popping off via Twitter, threatening North Korea with destruction.

And oh yes, the president has virtually sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. The policy was designed during the Cold War when the United States need a quick response in case the Soviet Union decided to launch missiles against us.

The Cold War is over, although the peril of a nuclear strike remains acute, given the enormous number of nuclear-armed nations around the world.

Which requires a U.S. president to be of sound temperament and judgment. The Senate panel today sought to explore those issues today as it relates to the current commander in chief.

Given the president’s behavior and the goofiness of his public pronouncements, senators have ample reason to wonder out loud about the commander in chief’s ability to keep us safe.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 4

The United States of America has followed a nuclear policy that, so far, has worked pretty well.

Call it a policy of “containment and deterrence.”

Thus, is it possible for the United States to get North Korea to toss its budding nuclear stockpile into the crapper? Hardly.

Which brings me to one of Kim Jong Un’s demands: He wants to keep his nuclear arsenal. USA Today’s list of five demands contains this one, which might be central to the current tensions that have escalated between the United States and North Korea.

Check it out here.

You’ve heard of “mutually assured destruction,” aka MAD. It kept the United States and the Soviet Union from nuking each other during the Cold War. The world is full of trouble spots occupied by nuclear-powered nations: India and Pakistan; Israel has them, too; South Africa has been thought to possess nuclear weapons.

Yes, we negotiated an agreement designed to rid Iran of its nuclear weapon capability and the jury is still out on whether that will work ultimately.

North Korea presents a tremendously different situation for us. Donald Trump is blustering, bellowing and bloviating about what he intends to do if Kim’s regime keeps making “overt threats” against the United States and our allies. A “threat” doesn’t constitute military action, so the president is treading on some highly dangerous ground if he intends to hit the North Korean’s first.

My advice to the president — which he won’t ever see, let alone heed — would be to dial back the fiery and furious rhetoric and possibly accept the notion that North Koreans are going to do what they intend to do, no matter how many threats we level against them.

However, the commander in chief can make it known — through back channels — what Kim knows already: Don’t even think about using those nukes.

Has the dictator gone MAD?

Kim Jong Un certainly must know why they called it “mutually assured destruction” back during the Cold War.

Surely he understands that MAD means what it assures, that anyone who launches a nuclear missile at a nuclear power is going to get wiped off the face of the planet.

The MAD policy prevented a nuclear holocaust when the world comprised just two superpowers. U.S. presidents and Soviet dictators knew the consequences of such foolishness.

But … here we are. The North Korean dictator/fruitcake/goofball keeps making some, oh, so very provocative statements about how he would respond to U.S. attempts to prevent him from developing a nuclear-strike capability.

Kim Jong Un said he would launch a missile at the USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group that is steaming (finally!) toward the Korean Peninsula. He keeps arguing that his nukes are for “defensive purposes only,” meant to deter some perceived aggression from South Korea.

It’s all just so much MADness coming out of the mouth of the son and grandson of two prior North Korean dictators.

This brings me to my point. All the bluster and bravado that pours out of Kim Jong Un’s pie hole cannot actually mean he would he do what he says he would do. Or can it?

Military rivalries are nothing to trifle with. I recall vividly a statement I received from a Taiwanese government official with whom I was discussing the tense standoff that exists between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

The PRC has long threatened to use military force to “take back” the island nation formed in 1949 at the end of a bloody civil war on the Chinese mainland. Would the PRC actually risk nuclear confrontation with the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan?

The Taiwanese official said his government takes any threat from China “very seriously” and was prepared to respond accordingly.

So should the United States be prepared to respond to the rantings of the North Korean MADman.

They call it “MAD” for a damn good reason, Mr. Dictator.

Political leanings turned upside-down

I am listening to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters rail, rant and ramble about a dastardly human being, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The California Democrat — so help me — is sounding like a 1950s Republican! She is not alone among congressional Democrats who are calling Putin a war criminal, a monster and no friend of the United States of America.

Meanwhile, we have the nation’s leading Republican — the president-elect — continuing to bite his tongue as it regards Putin. Donald J. Trump just won’t — or cannot — bring himself to say what Democrats are saying. Which is that Putin is a seriously bad guy.

What’s going on here?

Republicans traditionally have hated the Russians, especially when they were governed by the communists who created the Soviet Union. Indeed, Putin is a creature of the monstrous Soviet era, the KGB, the notorious and ruthless spy agency he once ran.

These days, though, we’re mired in debate over what role the Russians played in influencing our 2016 presidential election. Democrats are enraged. Republicans, well, are not … generally.

Sure, some GOP senators have spoken out against the Russians. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are three harsh critics of Putin and they all have openly challenged Trump’s relationship with him and the rest of the Russian government.

The president-elect? He’s keeping quiet.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, the traditional enemy of Russia. Democrats used to be accused of being squishy-soft on the Russians.

Talk about a reversal of roles.

From major threat to potential ally?

putin_trump_and_i_are-a2fab9090657f98b004db89c40af5dfd

It seems like yesterday. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president of the United States, said Russia had emerged as the most dangerous “global geopolitical threat” to the United States.

Many of us scoffed at that notion. It seemed so, oh, Cold War-ish. I mean, c’mon, Mitt! We won the Cold War. The Soviet Union vanished in 1991. Democracy was returning, albeit in dribs and drabs, to a new Russia. Isn’t that what many of us said and/or thought?

Well, it turns out Mitt was right. His critics were wrong. Russia has sought to do a lot of harm to the world and, quite possibly, to the U.S. electoral process.

But wait! This new Republican Party is being led by someone with an entirely different view of the Big Bear. Donald J. Trump is about to become president. He is forming his government. He is building his Cabinet.

Who is the new president apparently about to select as the nation’s secretary of state, its top diplomat, its foreign policy vicar? It appears to be a fellow named Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil — and a close ally of the nation Mitt ID’d as America’s top threat.

Exxon Mobil has extensive business ties in Russia. Tillerson is said to be friends with Putin.

For that matter, let’s recall that Trump has said some flattering things about the man who once ran the Soviet Union’s spy agency, the hated KGB. He called him a “strong leader”; he accepted Putin’s praise with gratitude; he invited Russia to find some missing e-mails that Hillary Clinton had deleted from her personal server while she was working as secretary of state; he suggested that Russian forces should enter Syria and take on the Islamic State; he said “wouldn’t it be great?” if we got along better with Russia.

You’ve heard the term “identity politics,” yes? It’s meant to pigeonhole certain groups and political affiliations into categories. Democrats once were identified as the party that was “soft on communism” and, thus, soft on the Soviet Union. Republicans were identified as the opposite of that squishy label.

Communism officially has died in Russia. What has emerged in its place, though, appears to be its oppressive equal.

Democrats now are alarmed at the budding U.S.-Russia coziness. Republicans — with a few notable exceptions — seem somewhat OK with it.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee and one-time Vietnam War prisoner, has expressed “concern” about Tillerson’s relationship with Putin. You would expect McCain to raise those questions; he dislikes the president-elect and he damn sure detests the Russians, given what their former agents — the North Vietnamese — did to him for more than five years in that POW cell in Hanoi.

Frankly, I am beginning to long for the good old days that, in the grand scheme, were just a little while ago.

I also am thinking the reason Mitt likely won’t get the State job has less to do with what he said about Trump — the “fraud” and “phony” stuff — and more to do with what he said about the Russians.