ON RUSSIA, PUTIN, OBAMA AND TRUMP
I am prejudiced against Russians.
There is no other people or race against which I have hard feelings, nor which I look upon with suspicion.
But Russians, I don't like them.
I don't trust them, I dislike their actions in the world, I think they look odd.
I'm not proud of that, and I'm trying to change, but I'm honest enough to recognize my bias and acknowledge it.
My prejudice is born of spending my adolescence reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and my military young adulthood studying flash cards of Warsaw Pact military vehicles with their fuel tanks and munitions lockers highlighted. I grew up with images of an ogre pounding his shoe on a table and of families being machine gunned as they tried to run across an Iron Curtain. I detested Russian adventurism from Angola to Nicaragua, and saw evil in near every Russian act.
When you've actually knelt in an elementary-school hallway in a nuclear-blast drill, you tend to think long and hard about the nation pointing nuclear weapons at you.
I am prejudiced against Russians, and Vladimir Putin seems to be the justification of my prejudice -- the proof and personification of the stereotypes in my mind.
Which brings us to the situation of the day.
American intelligence services suspect that Russia tried to influence the recent American presidential election. Politicians and the press have reacted with shock and indignation, as if they didn't know that Russia has tried to influence every American presidential election since shortly after the Bolshevik revolution. Or that Russia has put its finger on the scale in dozens of elections around the world over several past decades.
The public cries also seem to ignore the fact that the United States routinely tries to influence foreign elections, through the actions of our government or private groups. In fact, the likely motivator for Putin's presumed meddling in the recent American presidential election was a desire to get payback against Hillary Clinton who, as secretary of State, oversaw efforts to help his opponents in the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections.
Simply put, she screwed him, and he tried to screw her back.
And all the folks in the progressives-press complex see some sinister collusion between Putin and Donald Trump. The effort to delegitimize the Trump election tries this week to tie him to Putin and ascribe his victory not to the wishes of the people but the meddling of an enemy.
In that scenario, Putin is cast as a neo-Hitler and the face of evil in the world.
That jibes with my prejudice.
But it also avoids the fact that handling Russia is one of the many significant foreign policy failures of the dwindling Democratic administration. Hillary Clinton, a fan of Russian communism in her college years, famously reached out to Putin's world with her "Reset" button, calling for a new day of cooperation and friendship between our two nations.
Unfortunately for the world, she and Barack Obama got played for fools. The relationship between the United States and Russia has become dysfunctional and dangerous, and the rise of Putin as neo-Stalin has been made almost complete. In every contact, the United States has lost -- from the Syrian crisis to the invasion of Crimea.
Even in this matter, if the Russians meddled in the election, it means the Obama Administration failed to prevent it from doing so. There was a cyber battle to protect our democratic process, and we lost it in humiliating fashion.
The Obama era saw mismanagement of American foreign policy empower dangerous rivals in China, militant Islam and Russia, but only in Russia do we find hundreds of nuclear weapons still targeted on the American homeland.
Which means we are in a bad way and in very precarious times.
And if the Trump Administration can re-establish a relationship of respect or even cooperation with Russia, the world -- and American interests -- would be significantly bettered. Consequently, seeking such a relationship would be useful, if done from a position of strength, and not obsequiousness.
Russia and the United States face common rivals in both expansionist China and militant Islam. Our two nations also find in a shared Christianity and modernity closer cultural ties than could be found with either communist China or rising Islam.
Russia and the United States have different views of the value and rights of the individual, but we partnered heroically in the Second World War and maintained a peace-preserving detente during the Cold War. We have worked together before, and we may need to work together again.
And as much as I dislike Russians, it is only prudent and wise to at least explore the possibility of a working relationship that sees us as something other than rivals and enemies. Russia is not destroying our economy, dominating an ocean or ruling world trade and resource development -- as China is -- and Russia has not killed our people at home and abroad -- as militant Islam has.
So exploring cooperation with Russia makes sense.
In spite of my prejudices.
In spite of the whining of the people on the evening news.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016