Tag Archives: Soviet Union

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.

Jared Kushner is no RFK

I keep hearing chatter that compares Jared Kushner’s lack of experience to Robert F. Kennedy.

I must now take up the cudgel for my first political hero … and it’s not Jared Kushner.

Kushner is under investigation by the FBI and Congress for something related to his father-in-law’s 2016 presidential campaign. He allegedly had some contact with Russian government officials that might be improper, it not illegal.

One of the arguments being offered is that Kushner doesn’t have any experience with government or public policy. They note that his father-in-law, the president, got around federal anti-nepotism laws when he appointed Kushner to be a senior policy adviser in the West Wing of the White House.

It’s the RFK thing all over again, some of them insist.

Hold the phone!

President-elect John F. Kennedy picked his brother to be attorney general shortly after winning the 1960 election. JFK joked at the time that a government job would give his brother some valuable experience when he decided to go into law.

I want to make a couple of points about Robert Kennedy.

One is that he had government experience. He had served as legal counsel to a Senate committee chaired by the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy. He also served as a legal staffer working with his brother, Sen. JFK, on  a Senate committee that looked deeply into organized crime within the labor movement.

After that, Bobby Kennedy then managed his brother’s presidential campaign. Sen. Kennedy won the presidency by a narrow popular vote and Electoral College margin over Vice President Richard Nixon.

Compared to the absence of any government exposure as it regards Kushner, RFK brought much more experience to his job as U.S. attorney general.

And, indeed, he used his Justice Department office as a bully pulpit against organized crime and in the fight to enact civil rights legislation. Oh, and he also played a significant role in heading off nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With that, I shall now cease listening to any further comparison between Jared Kushner and Robert F. Kennedy.

There is no comparison to be made, except to point out how utterly unfit Kushner is to perform the duties to which he’s been assigned.

NATO never has been ‘obsolete,’ Mr. President

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization once was “obsolete.”

Now it’s relevant.

That’s the former and current view of the president of the United States. What changed? What did NATO do to regain its status as a dependable and valuable defense treaty?

Donald John Trump met today with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The two men had a cordial and constructive meeting at the White House.

So here we are. The president who campaigned for office in 2016 while griping repeatedly about NATO’s obsolescence now says the organization is a partner in the fight against terrorism.

Will we learn from the president what changed his mind on this matter? Hardly. My guess is that even he doesn’t know, except that the secretary general told him that NATO matters.

Well, it does. It matters a lot.

The NATO alliance sits just west of its big and fearsome neighbor. I refer to Russia, which is governed by Vladimir Putin who — until just recently — seemed to be bound at the hip to Donald Trump. The bromance is fading quickly as the Trump administration starts turning the screws on Russia over its complicity in the Syrian civil war; oh, and Congress is starting to fire up the jets under Putin over his government’s role in seeking to “rig” the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

NATO matters

Yes, NATO came into being after World War II to deter potential aggression by the former Soviet Union. But in 1991, the Evil Empire disappeared, only to be replaced by another sinister governmental being. Russia has shown its aggressive self already, threatening Ukraine, retaking Crimea and blustering about re-conquering the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

NATO now comprises 28 nations. Its relevance is quite vital to the stability of Europe, which remains crucial to the national security interests of the United States of America.

If only we could get the president to stop yammering about how NATO must pay its “fair share” or else. It’s the “or else” that some of us find most troubling.

My curiosity persists, though. What did NATO do to regain its status as a partner in the struggle to maintain international equilibrium?

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.

Tables have been turned upside down

Imagine this scenario, say, around 1972.

The Democratic nominee for president, George McGovern, wants Americans troops pulled out of Vietnam immediately. The North Vietnamese’s major benefactor, the Soviet Union, starts deploying spooks to influence the presidential election that year.

KGB agents infiltrate U.S. voting stations, tinker with ballots, perform all kinds of skullduggery to get McGovern elected. They fail. President Nixon wins anyway … in a landslide.

Then the word goes out about the Soviets’ meddling. What do you suppose would be the Republicans’ response? They’d be outraged. They would call for heads to roll. They would insist that the president slap sanctions on the Soviets.

Today, though, is a different era.

Democrats are yammering at possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Republicans led by the president-elect are dismissing intelligence experts’ opinion that the Russians — under orders from Vladimir Putin –tried to get Donald J. Trump elected. They cheered when Trump actually was elected.

Why aren’t GOP leaders as incensed now as they historically would have been?

Is it because their guy won? Is it because they don’t want to rile the president-elect, who’s been dismissing and disparaging our intelligence community that Republicans historically have trusted implicitly as behaving honorably?


Trump got an earful today when he met with CIA, DIA, NSA and Homeland Security officials. They told him the same thing: The Russians tried to influence our election through cyberattacks. Trump’s response has been, well, tepid at best.

If the president-elect is truly interested in protecting the integrity of our electoral process, he needs to stop making excuses for “smart man” Putin and get on board with what his intelligence experts are telling him.

As president, it’s a sure bet that he’ll need their expertise when the time comes.

Good riddance, El Comandante

FILE - In this July 11, 2014 file photo, Cuba's Fidel Castro speaks during a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in Havana, Cuba. Social media around the world have been flooded with rumors of Castro's death, but there was no sign Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, that the reports were true, even if the 88-year-old former Cuban leader has not been seen in public for months. (AP Photo/Alex Castro, File)

It’s been said of prominent world leaders that single acts result in what would be written about them in their obituary.

For Fidel Castro, such an act that no doubt will appear in obits around the world must read, “… who took the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.”

The Cuban dictator is dead at the age of 90. He outlasted 10 American presidents in one of the more peculiar political standoffs of the past century.

But it was a two-week span in October 1962 that remains the lynchpin of Castro’s reign of the island nation that sits just off the tip of Florida. He allowed Soviet engineers to build missile launch platforms in Cuba capable of sending nuclear-armed missiles against the United States or anyone else in the hemisphere. U.S. spy planes spotted the installations; President Kennedy got wind of them. The president then went nose-to-nose with Castro and his Soviet benefactors.

The Cuban missile crisis ended when the other side “blinked” after Kennedy ordered a complete naval blockade of the island and he did that after advising the nation in a televised address that any strike from Cuba against any nation in the hemisphere would be met by the full force of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Castro led a “revolution” in 1959 that overthrew a hideous dictator. Cubans thought they were being liberated from repression. They were mistaken. Castro’s repression was every bit as severe. His fellow Cubans suffered economic deprivation, loss of human rights and dignity, imprisonment, loss of liberty across the board.

Despite all that, the continued economic sanctions imposed by the United States stopped making sense a long time ago, especially after the Soviet Union evaporated in 1991. The Cubans themselves never did pose much of an economic or military threat to this nation.

President Obama finally moved to end the embargo and restored a semblance of normal relations Cuba.

Still, Fidel Castro’s legacy will not be a glowing one.

Obama’s remarks in response to Castro’s death were appropriately neutral. As the Washington Post reported: “We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said in a statement. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Enormous impact? Powerful emotions? Singular figure? Yes to all of that. Indeed, in the Little Havana area of Miami, they’re celebrating Castro’s death. I certainly would call that a “powerful emotion.”

So it is that this individual finally has departed the scene.

My feelings are a bit mixed. I am glad the United States has lifted its economic sanctions against Cuba. Still, the world is better off without Fidel Castro.

So long, El Comandante.

Here come those ‘damn e-mails’ again


I have been trying for weeks to grasp the significance of the e-mail controversy that keeps swirling around Hillary Rodham Clinton’s quest for the presidency.

Her one-time Democratic presidential primary opponent Bernie Sanders said he was tired of “hearing about your damn e-mails.” Me, too, senator.

But … here they come again, courtesy of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and — more than likely — the former head of the Soviet KGB spy agency and current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

They’re leaking these e-mails near the end of a bitter and ugly presidential campaign between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

Their intent clearly and without equivocation is to embarrass and undermine Clinton’s bid to become president of the United States. They contain communication on a whole array of issues, from her speeches to well-heeled groups and backers, the LGBT response to Clinton’s reaction to the death of former first lady Nancy Reagan and her thoughts on how U.S. policy should deal with the crisis in Syria.


I get the intent, which is my clearest takeaway from it all. Indeed, Clinton hasn’t been very forthcoming on explaining many of these issues raised by the e-mails.

She and Trump are squaring off this week for the third and final (thank God in heaven) joint appearance. I’d bet real American money that moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News is going to ask her some tough questions about the e-mail dump and what it all means about the way she would govern as president.

I’m also willing to bet some serious greenbacks she’ll be ready to respond. Trump? Well, time tell us very soon how he intends to respond to her response.

Perhaps a follow-up question for Trump from Wallace might go something like this: Mr. Trump? You all but invited the Russian government to deliver us the content of those “missing” e-mails. Is this what you had in mind?

Oh, and another one could go this way: You’ve been critical of our intelligence operation and our military. Intelligence officials now seem to believe that President Putin — about whom you’ve spoken quite highly and who has returned the compliment — is responsible for the e-mail dump in these waning days of the campaign. Are they wrong, sir?

NATO remains our premier alliance


Here’s a quick pop quiz question for you …

Of all the alliances that included the United States, which of them was deemed the most crucial and which of them has lasted the longest?

Time’s up!

The answer is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed in 1949 as the Cold War was reaching a fever pitch. It was formed as a defense alliance against the military threat posed by the Soviet Union and its bloc of nations against Western Europe.

Its mission has changed a bit since 1991, when the Evil Empire collapsed. The Soviet Union no longer poses a threat, but Russia does.

So, what does the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, propose to do? He wants to establish financial conditions on whether the United States would honor its treaty obligations in case Russia were to attack, say, any or all of the Baltic States.

Trump told the New York Times that if he’s elected president that he would examine whether a threatened NATO nation had upheld its financial responsibilities as part of the defense pact. I mention the Baltic States because they once were Soviet provinces, but they became independent as the Soviet Union fell; Russia has been making some noise about re-annexing Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, all of which are now NATO members.

With that statement, Trump has proposed a fundamental rewriting of our oldest post-World War II military alliance.

According to the New York Times: “The United States created the 28-nation alliance, and Article 5 of the NATO treaty, signed by President Truman, requires any member to come to the aid of another that NATO declares was attacked. It has been invoked only once: NATO pledged to defend the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”


Yes, we’ve been a charter member of the United Nations, which was formed in 1945. I’m wondering if Trump — in stating his nationalist fervor — is going to propose we withdraw from the U.N. as a sop to the TEA Party faction with the GOP that has been supporting his presidential candidacy.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 called Russia the nation’s No. 1 geopolitical threat. Given that hindsight provides such clarity, Romney’s view now appears to be quite prescient.

Trump now is going to put conditions on whether we rise to the defense of a NATO member nation. Are they paying their bills? Have they made good on maintaining their financial obligations to NATO? Are we going to let the citizens of a country under attack be subjected to the tyranny that Russian rule would bring to them because their government hasn’t paid their fair share of the cost associated with NATO membership?

How many more examples is the GOP presidential nominee going to provide that demonstrate his absolute ignorance of geopolitical alliances before it sinks in that he is unfit for the office he seeks?

Great nations do not go back on their word to protect their allies.

Anti-Cuba lobby still flexes its muscle


The anti-Castro/Cuba lobby in the United States has been outsized for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps we are witnessing this week the latest manifestation of that muscle-flexing as President Obama tours the tiny island nation and gets skewered by those on the right for doing what many others of us think is the right thing.

Which is to normalize relations  with the communist regime.

It’s a curious thing to watch the head of state of the world’s most powerful nation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of a dirt-poor Third World state. Then to have that tinhorn lecture the leader of the Free World about whether the United States should keep possession of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay gives the Cubans a dubious and overstated standing — and then to have critics pounce on Obama for taking it!

To what do we owe this strange juxtaposition?

I believe it’s the power of that Cuban-American community that resides mostly in Florida.

The community had its birth in the late 1950s when Cubans fled their nation that had been taken over by Fidel Castro and his gang of communists. They took up residence in Florida and began immediately pressuring the U.S. government to do more to destroy Castro.

President Eisenhower heard them. He formulated plans to invade Cuba and then handed the keys to the Oval Office over to President Kennedy in January 1961, who then launched the Bay of Pigs invasion.

It didn’t turn out well for our side. The Cubans squashed the small force, took prisoners and then crowed about how the big, bad U.S. government was intent on destroying them.

Then we had that missile crisis in 1962. JFK took care of it by blockading the island, forcing the Soviet Union to “blink” and remove the offensive missiles.

By 1991, the Evil Empire had vaporized. Cuba was left without its major benefactor.

Still, five decades after the revolution, Cuba has remained a communist dictatorship. Fidel Castro handed the power over to his brother, Raul, who welcomed President Barack Obama to his nation.

Is Cuba a nation to be feared? Do we tremble at the thought of normalizing relations with this tiny nation? No. Why should we? We’re the big kids on the block. Heck, we’re the biggest kids on the planet!

Our politicians, though, have been told to fear Cubans by that overblown Cuban-American community.

So here we are. The president of the United States is making history simply by visiting an island nation that sits within spittin’ distance of our southeastern-most state.

Sure, the Cubans must do more to improve human rights on their island. The president should tell them so.

I don’t know why we should sweat so much over whether Raul Castro listens to us. He and that backwater government he runs can’t do us any harm.

My own sense is that normalization of relations with Cuba by itself is going to do more to bring reform to a nation that needs it in the worst way. Soon enough, the Cubans will see what the rest of the world really looks like.

They also are likely to see how their giant neighbor just over the horizon relishes the fruits of liberty.

Then they might start demanding it from their leaders.


POTUS should meet with dissidents


It’s probably way too late to change the itinerary now, but President Obama might want to give it a shot when he lands in Cuba this week.

He’ll be the first U.S. president since The Flood to visit the island nation.

I’ve been supportive for years of efforts to renew relations with the communist dictatorship. To that end, I have applauded Obama for finally taking the step to reopen embassies in our two countries.

I do wish, though, he would have insisted on meeting with Cuban dissidents while he’s on the island. It’s those dissidents who’ve been the subject of the opposition to U.S. efforts to do what should have happened at least two decades ago, when the Soviet Union disappeared from the planet.

None of us knows what the president will tell Cuban leader Raul Castro when the men meet in private. My hope is that he gives him a scolding as it relates to his government’s treatment of those who oppose it. If the Cuban commies are intent on restoring their nation’s status as a world player, they need to atone for their shameful treatment of political dissenters.

Still, the visit is a welcome turn in U.S.-Cuba relations.

If only the president could arrange to meet with those for whom he says he will fight.