Vladimir Putin is currently cashing in on an ill-advised promise made when two presidents thought no one was listening. You may recall President Obama’s whispered assurance, back in March of 2012, to then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
We are now witnessing that promised flexibility. America’s foreign policy is becoming a caricature—international affairs according to Gumby.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a mix of Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria---an experienced strongman and savvy intelligence officer. He is hardly someone to be impressed by “flexibility.” Vladimir is all about power and the expansion of Russian influence on the world. He also enjoys it when America looks bad. It makes him smile—sort of.
A while back, I read Michael Dobbs’ account of what happened when the “Big Three”—Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin—met at Yalta to carve up what was left of Europe. The book is called, Six Months in 1945: From World War to Cold War. I heartily recommend it to anyone wondering if history repeats itself, or at least rhymes.
Dobbs gives a wonderfully detailed account of a weak president being bested by a determined Soviet dictator. FDR gave territory and history away to a ruthless tyrant. A war that started, in part, with a Soviet invasion of Poland, ended with Soviet dominance of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.
Now with Vladimir Putin inserting himself in a grand way into the current Syria crisis, not to mention joining the editorial staff of the New York Times, the voice of Yogi Berra can be heard crying in the wilderness: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
We must learn from history’s clock. It was dangerous and wrong to trust the Russians back then, and it is dangerous and wrong to trust them now.
In May of 1945, George Kennan was an American diplomat living and working in Moscow. Most Cold War buffs know very well of Kennan’s memo writing skills. His February 1946 “long telegram” is considered to be one of the seminal documents of the Cold War. In it, he described the Soviet Union’s “neurotic view of world affairs” and the “instinctive Russian sense of insecurity,” not to mention their, “secretiveness and conspiracy.”