As the United States and Russia careen needlessly toward a new Cold War it’s worth reiterating that it doesn’t have to happen just because our military industrial complex wants it to happen.
Because our nation is still a democracy run by the people’s elected officials. At least on paper.
Those elected officials are the ones who broke Daddy Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev. Not the Russian leader’s successors Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Our political aristocracy betrayed those promises with the same cavalier contempt for personal honor they displayed while tossing America’s poor and the faltering middle class to the curb for Wall Street.
We told Russia that if they allowed the reunification of Germany, closed their military bases in Eastern Europe, and withdrew their troops we would close our military bases in Western Europe and withdraw our troops as well. We also promised we would not expand NATO one inch eastward from Germany.
The current political aristocracy, which works only for the American corporate oligarchy, reneged on both those promises.
Our military bases in Europe are still open and we did not withdraw our troops. Even more provocatively, we expanded NATO eastward to include Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.
That’s not the kind of thing you do when you want a relationship built on trust. So you can forgive the Russians for being confused and suspicious.
Today, American and NATO troops sit on Russia’s western border. We’ve stationed anti-ballistic missiles in Poland and Romania with the intention of gaining a “first strike” nuclear superiority over Russia’s land based missiles — another major provocation.
In short, we have continued to wage the Cold War that officially ended in 1991.
Lost in all this drama is that fact that the U.S. and Russia were close allies during World War II, which worked hand-in-hand to defeat the Axis powers. It was a glorious time that even our own leaders recognize as some kind of golden age.
Russia is now pursuing its interests in what it calls “The Near Abroad.” The term applies to the former, now independent, republics of the old Soviet Union. Like Ukraine and Georgia.
The policy is very similar to the Monroe Doctrine we passed in 1923 and continue to enforce today. It stated that any efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America – our own Near Abroad – would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”
So you can forgive the Russians for thinking we’re full of baloney when we get all worked up over their former republics, while treating North, South and Central America like we own it.
We should stay out of the intramural squabbles between Russia and its neighbors. Just as we expect them to do with our interests in the Western Hemisphere.
Because people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. And because we should have higher standards for ourselves.
Russia may never be a close friend of The U.S. It may always be an competitor on some level, but Russia does not have to be our enemy.
There is no need for a new Cold War except within our own National Military Establishment. Where publicly traded companies like Boeing and General Dynamics rely on unnecessary wars and the fear of military conflict to meet their profit growth targets
We should always be mindful of the fact that, despite its formidable nuclear arsenal, Russia is in no position economically to rival America as a world power. Its economy is about the same size as that major European superpower – wait for it – Italy. Its population of 144 million is also less than half our 322 million
So, let’s not make the mistake of blowing Russia up into a major bogeyman again.
The Cold War ended on December 31, 1991 with the collapse of the old, unlamented, sclerotic Bolshevik dictatorship the world knew as the Soviet Union. Its downfall was triggered by the rise of a generation of toxic elites who accepted corruption and first-class citizenship as their due.
They lived, shopped and partied in a world of plenty apart from the one inhabited by the average Russians they claimed to lead by example. Behind gates, walls and guards.
We need our own generation of toxic elites to allow America and Russia to be friends where possible, and adversaries where it’s not. But never to be the bitter, sworn enemies of The Cold War we once were.
We need to always be willing to seek a mutually beneficial negotiated settlement wherever there are sticking points in that relationship.
Remember — both sides have more than enough nuclear firepower to reduce the other to a wasteland of smoking, radioactive ashes where the survivors will be left to envy the dead, and all human life on Earth will perish slowly in the aftermath.
Only the rats, cockroaches, and grass will be left behind to tell the tale of our suicidal folly if it comes to that. And possibly former Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and U.S. action star Chuck Norris (right).
Which is why the relationship between our respective nations must never come to that again.