WASHINGTON—Regarding our community activist’s present imbroglio with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, I stand with Donald Trump who said recently: “The thing I have the most concern about is that he’s being so lambasted for not being respected, and for being a joke, that he’ll do something really stupid to show that he’s a man.” We are now about where we were with Jimmy Carter after he lectured his fellow citizens about their so-called “inordinate fear of Communism” even as the Soviet Union was spreading its tentacles over the Third World. His sudden turn-around—caused by Soviet aggression in Afghanistan—from a position of sweet reason to the pose of a hawk alarmed me and doubtless alarmed the Russians. Jimmy began the military build-up that a more gifted statesman, President Ronald Reagan, consummated in pursuit of a peaceful ending of the Cold War. Yet while Jimmy resided in the White House, I was uneasy with the sudden anti-Communism of this moralistic twerp. Most probably Donald was too. Now we have to worry about the intolerable greenhorn Barack Obama. What will he do next?
He came into the White House promising to turn his back on some forty years of history. To him the Cold War was a foolish waste of resources that could have been better spent on the kind of things community activists spend government resources on: in the main, booty for their friends.
He famously “reset” the administration’s policy with Russia, to use Secretary of State’s Hillary Clinton’s pert term for their démarche. He abandoned a missile-defense agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic. He abruptly pulled out of Iraq and began planning his withdrawal from Afghanistan. Continuing his imbecilic “reset” project with Russia, he was embarrassingly overheard—by the whole wide world—confiding to the then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” on missile defense after his re-election. “I’ll transmit this information to Vladimir,” Medvedev replied. Did Jimmy Carter ever make such a faux pas?
More recently he has frivoled as Iran approaches achieving the atomic bomb. He backed down on his “red line” with Syria, and, of course, he announced scaling down our military to pre-World War II size. All of this, he did because in the ideological world of community activists American foreign policy has for two generations been such a disaster. That was until just last week when a former KGB officer by the name of Putin ordered Russian troops into Crimea, possibly beginning again the Cold War, certainly beginning again an era of hostilities between Russia and the West, with China mulling over its opportunities. Now, who knows what a community activist thinks?
A few months ago I came across the name Vitaly Churkin once again. I had my own encounter with a Vitaly Churkin back in 1987 when the world’s media was echoing with disparagements of President Reagan’s intellect and denunciations of him as a war hawk. Today’s Vitaly Churkin is the suave Russian ambassador to the United Nations. Nineteen eighty-seven’s Vitaly Churkin was a vitriolic spokesman for the USSR’s embassy in Washington. Could they be one and the same?
In 1987 I came home from what had been a heated televised debate with a man named Churkin only to be informed by the brave Soviet dissident then staying at my home, Vladimir Bukovsky, that I had appeared on television with a well-known KGB officer and “you did good, Bawb.” I wondered why my adversary had taken such strong exception when I compared Nazi Germany to his motherland. When I looked up today’s Churkin in Wikipedia, a February 22 New York Times feature, and other sources, I could find no mention of his KGB past. Yet from further research it became obvious that they are the very same: once a Churkin, always a Churkin. How soon Wikipedia, the Times, and other contemporary sources forget even one’s KGB connections.
Today’s younger generations—the computer savvy youth, the middle-aged politicians—seem to believe that the past is dead and buried. Yet history has a way of enduring and becoming episodically relevant again. So it has with the return of the KGB in Russia. I am reminded of another of my peers who had some dealings with Putin and possibly with Churkin, former head of the CIA and the Pentagon, Bob Gates. He said recently that “I had looked into Putin’s eyes and I saw a stone-cold killer.” What did Barack Obama think he saw?