We baby boomers have seen the Cold War before

As the world we knew continues to change, and now with an upcoming summit between the American and Russian presidents, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes this Boomer Opinion piece about his own experience watching Putin impose his personality on politics.

Donald Trump trumpeted again in a tweet late last month what he has positively professed ever since his presidential victory and seems naïvely to accept even on the eve of his summit with President Putin: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”

Putin of Russia

As if that puts the issue to rest. As if that’s the end of the story. As if the contrary claims by our own intelligence agencies are foolish. As if most Americans have any reason to believe President Putin’s promises.

We don’t.

And, as if our president’s trust in Putin’s assurances justifies their impending bromantic hand-holder in Helsinki.

It doesn’t. If recent history of Trump’s faith in other iron-fisted leaders is any guide (see “North Korea”), they can make meaningless promises he’ll believe and we can lose more than we win.

Not that Trump was wrong when he also tweeted, “Getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing. It’s good for the world. It’s good for us. It’s good for everybody.”

It would be, Mr. President, if Russia were trying to get along with us. But it’s not. What we’re dealing with today is an aggressive Russia. An authoritarian Russia. An expansive Russia. It is not a Russia looking to do some good for the world. This is a Russia salivating to steer more of the world. Georgia. Crimea. Ukraine. Syria. And from its meddling in European elections — much more overtly than it meddled here — several sovereign nations just across the Atlantic.

A career of reporting from around the world: Greg Dobbs – on location in Moscow.

A few years ago I did an hour-long television documentary in Russia. It was about Putin, and politics, because having covered the draconian days of the Soviet Union itself, his ever-stronger stranglehold on his citizens is a mystery to me. Slowly but surely he has withdrawn many of the freedoms they had long yearned for but only briefly enjoyed after the Soviet Union disappeared. Free elections, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, mostly gone. Dissidents and journalists have been jailed, beaten, poisoned, and shot under his rule. He even evidently rigged the Sochi Olympics.

This is not a man you would necessarily expect his constituents to love. But apparently most do. In fact the one reliable polling agency in Russia, called Levada, asked people just a few years ago about their perceptions of Joseph Stalin, under whose reign of terror some 20 million Soviet citizens died. The outcome of the poll? 40-percent of Russians thought the Stalin era had brought “more good than bad.”

That has become the tacit rationale for Putin’s own grip on power.

He waves the flag of nationalism. His message, which I witnessed paraded on placards and screamed in speeches, is this: There was a time when we spoke and the world trembled. We were a great power once, we will be a great power again. And we will do whatever it takes to get there.

Citing Russia’s foreign adventures, conservative foreign affairs consultant Molly McKew put it well in politico.com: “It’s hard to understand Ukraine and Syria as two fronts in the same conflict when we never evaluate them together with Moscow in the center of the map, as Russia does.” That key phrase, “Moscow in the center of the map,” says it all.

Russian honor guard

And the fruits of democracy, which once had been an ambitious aim in Russia? Here’s what a dissident Russian politician told me in his office in the Kremlin (before his own political party was disqualified from elections): “What did we get when the Soviet Union fell apart? Crime. Corruption. Inflation. Unemployment (none of which was ever acknowledged back in the Soviet days). And the name for that was ‘democracy’.”

What President Trump has shown no sense of understanding is that Russia isn’t looking to get along. The only government ministry into which money has poured over the past half-decade or so is defense. New equipment, new bases. Not to mention an immense investment in cyberwarfare. Otherwise, the nation’s economy is about the size of Italy’s (which gave rise when I was there to a joke: “What did the Russian people use to heat their homes before fireplaces? Electricity”). But, the Russian people are self-reliant; throughout their history, they’ve had to be. So, unlike us whose lives are pretty soft, if stagnation is the price they must pay to be a superpower once again, they can take it. And will.

If Russia’s assertive ambitions were the only obstacle to overcome, they could be conquered. But there’s a second problem when it comes to Russia, and that is America. Today’s America. An America that embraces adversaries like Russia while bad-mouthing allies like Canada (as columnist Tom Friedman asked in bewilderment, “What country wouldn’t want Canada as its neighbor?”).

Trump striking a pose in Winston Churchill’s favorite armchair.

President Trump has worked harder to tear apart our alliances than to reinforce them (see “Germany” and now, as of this week, see “Britain”), which is something else he shows no sense of understanding. Reportedly during last month’s G7 summit, despite more recent efforts to reassure, he told our strongest allies, “NATO is as bad as NAFTA.” It’s so short-sighted. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was right when she said in a recent NPR interview, “The United States is stronger when we have friends and allies to deal with the various issues.” Which means, you weaken our allies, you weaken us.

Which brings us back to President Putin. He has done his own work of course to undermine American allies, but he has a partner in President Trump.

Now, by putting Putin’s immoral machinations and his undemocratic principles on a par with ours, we’ll reward him for it. But at no small cost. To quote Molly McKew again, “When we stop fighting for our ideals abroad, we stop fighting for them at home.”

We do want to get along with Russia. But only if there’s something in it for us. Just taking Putin’s word as gospel and his actions as acceptable, there’s not.

Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.

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7 Comments

  1. “This dick…” Wow, looks like Greg got your Trump-hate flowing. Better make sure you take your blood pressure meds.

  2. This is not the first opinion I’ve heard from democrats wanting a harder stance with Russia, or even to go to war with Russia (not them or their kids, of course, they’ll let those other people in the military do the fighting.) You can’t turn on ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/MSNBC/ETC without the new ‘cold warriors,’ all liberal democrats, wanting to fight Russia (not them, of course, they’ll just stay home and wave the flag). Oh, and for the record, I’m not a Russian agent, nor a Russian. Greg, and all you other democrat cold warriors, have a lovely war.

    1. Paul, this is not a Democrats or liberal issue. This is an American issue. NO ONE wants to go to war with Russia. My only question is why does Donald Trump love Vladimir Putin and seems to want a war with Canada. (Canada and other NATO countries sent their own troops to fight and die alongside of American troops in Afghanistan after 911. Russia didn’t.)

      By the way, by 1999 no bank in the United States of America would lend money to Donald J. Trump anymore because of his four or five bankruptcies. But, the so-called business genius still needed hundreds of millions of dollars. So, he had to go overseas for money. The only people who had the money and the will to lend hundreds of millions of dollars to America’s bankruptcy king were the Russians and banks working with the Russians, like Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank has already paid fines in the equivalent of over $600 million to the British and European authorities for their Russian money laundering activities. Trump’s own three-page tax summary that his lady tax lawyer released for him in 2017, showed that Donald J. Trump owes Deutsche Bank $335 million.

      Donald J. Trump also owes about $50 million to a Chinese government bank, and millions more to banks in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. (The last two are former Soviet Republics.) All of this has also been proven in bank records.

      It’s also been widely known for years, that the easiest way to launder Russian and other dirty money (from the Mafia and drug dealers) internationally is through real estate. That’s because they’re ALL CASH deals. No paper trail, no lawyers. My guess is if we want to know the real reason why Donald Trump loves Vladimir Putin and trashes our allies, FOLLOW THE MONEY. That’s what Robert Mueller–a lifelong registered Republican–is doing legally, methodically, and unbiased.

      1. Carol, Thank you for factual summary of the situation. I went to your website and found it very interesting. I am going to spend some time reading the various posts.

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