President Barack Obama enjoyed his “hamburger summit” with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev last week. The two men chowed down at Ray’s Hell Burger in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington. You can just imagine the president, whom his advisers say has developed a strong relationship with the Russian head-of-state, saying: “Hey Dmitri, pass the ketchup.” Very American.
Dmitri, on the other hand, was involved at that moment in passing something else: American nuclear secrets. The FBI this week announced the arrest of ten suspected Russian spies. These spies were Russians who were given false identities (one had the papers of a dead Canadian).
They were living in American suburbs, apparently pursuing their part of the American dream. Two of the accused spies were living in Arlington, Virginia. Perhaps they were sitting at the next table at Ray’s Hell Burger. Two others, Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracy Lee Ann Foley, lived in a Boston suburb, Cambridge, Massachusetts. That’s the hometown of Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and James Crowley, last heard from at the president’s famous “beer summit.”
The Hamburger Summit was hailed only last week as evidence of a growing closeness between the U.S. and Russia. President Obama said we still had “differences” with the Russians. Like, maybe, that little matter of the Russians invading the independent nation of Georgia and ripping off a chunk of South Ossetia. Still, this cozy lunch was offered to the media as an example of the Obama administration’s “resetting” of U.S.-Russian relations.
Georgia was not on their minds as the two men chomped their burgers. The FBI, however, seems to have its own ideas about reset buttons. Their counter-espionage pros have been following these Russian spies for years.
Richard Clarke--the famously anti-Bush CIA man--says the Russians are “using cold war techniques and cold war tactics.” The question for this administration might well have been: Have they ever stopped?
Medvedev recently announced the launch of a new Russian nuclear “attack” submarine. You don’t have to be able to speak Russian to see some very interesting things in the online video. First, that red star blazing in the upper right of the TV screen. Hmmm. Where have we seen that before? Wasn’t that red star the symbol of the Soviet Union? Next, listen to that military band. That music is familiar: It’s the Stalin-era Soviet national anthem. Oh, Putin changed the Russian words, but the tune is still there.
I’d like to have been at Ray’s Hell Burger to watch the two leaders. I hope Dmitri Medvedev did not try to grab some of our Commander-in-Chief’s French fries. But in every other way, the United States was being rolled.
President Obama does not reassure us by seeming to pal around with Dmitri Medvedev. First, Medvedev is Vladimir Putin’s agent. Putin has just completed a full decade in undisputed control of Russia. He, not Medvedev, is the Kremlin’s real vozhd--boss.
Second, the Russians have a long history of testing U.S. leaders. When FDR went to Yalta in 1945, all of his words in the dacha in which he was housed were faithfully recorded by Lavrenti Beria, the head of the NKVD, and reported to Stalin. Stalin read the transcripts before each summit session.
In Vienna in 1961--at their only summit--Nikita Khrushchev bullied and threatened our young and inexperienced John F. Kennedy. He later told intimates he had never had never been treated so roughly. Soon, very soon, the Berlin Wall went up and Khrushchev was secretly placing missiles in Cuba. Kennedy’s successful handling of the Cuban missile crisis was possible only because of overwhelming U.S. military strength. President Kennedy had the courage and will to match Khrushchev’s provocative and dangerous move with steely determination.
Two years ago, when much of the media focused on Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rants, Barack Obama’s cool and detached persona thrilled reporters. “No Drama Obama,” they liked to say, while stressing his formidable intelligence.
Some of us, however, had concerns even then. Don’t just look at Rev. Wright, focus on that congregation. That group was clearly enthused about anti-American pronouncements from the pulpit. That congregation was to Barack Obama what the U.S. Navy was to John McCain: the longest association and the formative institution in his life.
If Obama could sit in that sanctuary for twenty years and not pick up on this basic hostility to our country, is it any wonder that he is surprised at Russian spying? We need a leader with a clear-eyed view of the Russians. We need our president to stop chilling with Medvedev, the monkey, and figure out how to deal with Putin, the organ grinder.