Remember in the final presidential debate of 2012 when Mitt Romney identified Russia as our biggest global threat? He was mocked by President Obama with the sarcastic comment, “the 80s are calling and want their national security strategy back.” It was that same type of dismissive manner Obama displayed — as well as Joe Biden in his debate with Paul Ryan — that made people laugh and slap high fives.
Well, are the same people laughing about Russia taking over of Crimea? Are they laughing now about Russian-backed separatists and their operations in eastern Ukraine? Or does anyone find it funny that Putin’s hands are bloodstained with the shoot down of the Malaysian Airlines flight? This is what happens when a nation votes for a cute joke instead of understanding foreign policy – sadly, a residual effect of the sound bite culture of America.
And now, the joke’s on whom? As reported by The UK Guardian, “NATO jets have been scrambled to shadow Russian strategic bombers over the Atlantic and Black Sea and fighter planes over the Baltic in what the western alliance called an unusual burst of activity as tensions remain elevated because of the situation in Ukraine. In all, NATO said, its jets intercepted four groups of Russian aircraft in about 24 hours since Tuesday and some were still on maneuvers late on Wednesday afternoon. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European air space,” the alliance said.”
We’ve previously reported about increased Russian military aircraft activity near our own shores earlier this year. As well, Russian hackers have gone after White House and Pentagon computer systems. These are hardly the actions of someone adversely affected by sanctions – it’s a show of belligerence and strength to mock the West.
Recently, I had to go in for a checkup, and the nurse who took my vital signs recognized me and wanted to have a short chat. She was originally from Sevastopol (Crimea) and asked me what I thought about Vladimir Putin. Well, y’all know me and I didn’t hold back. I told her Putin was a threat to Eastern Europe as well as to global peace and stability. I told the young lady I believed Putin’s objective was to restore Russian influence and power — and I could tell as I was speaking the young lady was in disagreement. You see, she was an ethnic Russian, and immediately upon my finishing, began to praise Putin for his efforts to fight against the corrupt Ukraine government and protect ethnic Russians. She stated that proof was in the unanimous vote in Crimea to align with Russia — to wit I responded that it’s easy to have a unanimous vote when fellas with AK-47s are looming.
But what amazed me the most was when I asked her opinion of Mikhail Gorbachev — she blatantly articulated her disgust for the man who brought down the wall of the Soviet Union and introduced the movement and concepts of glasnost and Perestroika.
The young nurse — who has been in America some 15 years — admitted the Russian people didn’t understand freedom and were used to strong central government control and that their lives were better because of it. She stated that her impetus to depart was based on the influx of what she saw as corruption, crime, prostitution and as she expressed it, other ills of freedom and liberty.
So, as I listened to the nurse I came to understand what Putin represents to the Russian people– strength. He represents a restoration of the greatness that put them on the map and made them a regarded, respected, and even feared country.
That is a powerful sentiment and was exactly what I saw in the eyes and heard in the words of this Russian nurse. Would she go back to Russia? Probably not. However, she wholeheartedly embraces what Vladimir Putin is doing. We see him as some evil, despicable dictator — she saw him as a liberator. It goes back to that age-old adage of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
And so it goes in the airspace near NATO countries. The Guardian reports, “A spokesman stressed there had been no violation of NATO air space, unlike a week earlier when a Russian spy plane briefly crossed Estonia’s border. But so many sorties in one day was unusual compared with recent years. In the biggest exercise four Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers, the 1950s equivalent of the US B-52, flew out over the Norwegian Sea in the early hours of Wednesday, accompanied by four refuelling tanker aircraft. Norwegian F-16s tracked the formation, which eventually broke up, with six planes heading back toward Russia and two Tu-95s flying on south over the North Sea where they were intercepted by British Typhoons. Portuguese F-16s later tracked them in the Atlantic before they turned for home. A Norwegian military spokesman said: “We see Russian aircraft near our air space on a regular basis but what was unusual is that it was a large number of aircraft and pushed further south than we normally see.”
“This week Tuesday German and Danish planes were involved in tracking them as well as aircraft from non-NATO states Sweden and Finland. On Wednesday Portuguese F-16s posted in the Baltic intercepted a similar group of fighters and fighter-bombers.”
Don’t forget, World War II was begun because one person sought to reestablish the pride of the “Fatherland,” – Deutschland — after the embarrassment of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I. The sanctions and economic penalties imposed on Germany were backbreaking. Out of that time of despair of the Weimar Republic — when it took a wheelbarrow of deutschmarks to buy basic provisions — came one Adolf Hitler who promised the restoration of German pride. His will and determination in the face of weak leadership enabled him to build a powerful military machine. Hitler was able to retake the industrial Rhineland base without firing a shot — an emboldening maneuver that surprised even his own generals.
And the excuse used by Putin – the protection of ethnic Russians — was used by Hitler – the protection of ethnic Germans — as Hitler moved to take the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. The result was the blitzkrieg and the fall of Poland. Similarly to Hitler, President Vladimir Putin has committed to reinvigorating Russia’s armed forces, which had been undermined by the economic troubles that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
And if you think Poland doesn’t remember this, you’re fooling yourself — as those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Instead of Sir Neville Chamberlain claiming “there will be peace in our time” we have President Barack Hussein Obama who chimed, “after reelection I will have more flexibility.”
Last night I spoke at Cornell University on this very topic — this is serious, and yes, we are back in a new Cold War, make no mistake. It’s not about what we want – it’s about the reality of your enemy and understanding history and its trends.