Washington — Well, Moscow is in the news again. Vladimir Putin is irritated by the citizens of disobedient Ukraine. He is discarding his sporty demeanor for a more hostile style. He has not been seen for a long time in his spotless all-white martial arts uniform and is now all business, wearing a nicely tailored business suit. That should cause anxiety for his neighbors. Frankly, I preferred him in his martial-arts whites.
Back in the days of the Cold War, I was often asked — I being a renowned Cold War hawk — if I had ever visited Russia. No, I said because, remembering the plight of the brave Hungarians in 1956 and the brave Poles in the 1980 — I would only visit Moscow at the head of an American armor column. I had many run-ins with Russian Communists during those days, and frankly I hated Communists. People such as the famous dissident Vladimir Bukovsky stayed at my home and watched me drive KGB officers such as Vitaly Churkin out of their minds. I informed Vitali that when it came to anti-Semitism and police brutality Communist Russia compared very favorably with Hitler’s Germany, though the German uniforms were usually a better fit. Suddenly the TV screen went dark as Vitaly’s handlers at the Soviet Embassy across town yanked the plug.
But all my anti-Soviet bile dissipated in the 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, and he agreed with President Ronald Reagan. There was no way to avoid bankrupting the Soviet Union other than to end the Cold War. Under President Gorbachev’s successor, Boris Yeltsin, my anti-Soviet ardor dissipated even more. In fact, President George H. W. Bush even invited me to the White House to participate at a dinner in President Yeltsin’s honor. I came not in an armored vehicle but in a taxi. I found President Yeltsin very engaging. As I recalled, some months before he had hopped down from a military tank in Moscow to rally the forces of the Russian Federation. Henry Kissinger called Boris a great man. Who was I to dissent?
Before attending the dinner, I was briefed by Bob Gates, our very wise director of the CIA, and among other things Bob told me that the Russians saw themselves as part of Europe. They were proud of their contribution to European culture and desired our acknowledgment of it. Upon meeting him I told the Russian president that the Russian people have been a great people from a great culture. I had recently read Dostoyevsky and listened to Prokofiev in preparation for our dinner. I thought the Russian president was going to give me a bear hug he was so pleased. Boris was greatly impressed, though George H. W. remained impassive. He never made me ambassador, not even a consul in some remote hamlet of Siberia. (READ MORE from R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.: Western Snowflakes and Russian Sabers)
Instead of Boris Yeltsin handing out bear hugs we now have Vladimir Putin putting the final touches on the largest military buildup in Europe since World War II. With 70 percent of Putin’s forces in place, estimates from Western intelligence sources late last week painted a bleak picture. If the Russian forces arrayed against Ukraine along its coterminous border with Russia and Belarus invade, the casualties will be horrific. Among civilians, 25,000 to 50,000 people will be lost. Among the Ukrainian military 5,000 to 25,000 will perish, and the Russians are not going to get off easy either. Estimates run as high among the Russians as 3,000 to 10,000 casualties. Moreover, as many as one to five million refugees could result from Putin’s war games.
There are ironies surrounding the impending war along the Ukrainian border. What was the No. 3 nuclear power at the end of the Cold War? What country would have nothing to worry about regarding its security if it had maintained its nuclear force? At the end of the Cold War Ukraine was the No. 3 nuclear power in the world, and now it is threatened with extinction by Russia. Oh yes, the No. 1 nuclear power was the United States. What can America do for Ukraine now? Well, there are always sanctions, but those have been tried before. Sometimes the good guys fare badly.