Friday, July 28, 2017

Stalwarts everywhere,

Again, back in New Hampshire.  The trolls have scrapped the format of my earlier e-mail link over the winter; this is a new site, Fresh History, which I hope gets to you all through the ever-talented ministrations of George Pequignot.

As Donald Trump buddies up with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg I keep hearing reverberations of 1945, when Joseph Stalin and the ailing FDR laid out the parameters of postwar Europe in 1945 at Yalta.  Meanwhile, a British scientist under KGB control in Los Alamos, Klaus Fuchs, was filling his notebook with the critical formulas and emerging technology that would permit the Soviet Union to come up with an atomic bomb of their own months after Hiroshima.  In D.C., Alger Hiss was reassuring the liberals around Roosevelt.

Just now the primary dupe in Washington would seem to be the president himself, whose gratitude is only too plain for the timely nudges the Russians provided his hapless campaign that helped him stumble through to a sort of victory.  Surviving Cold Warriors in Washington, alarmed at Trump's reference to NATO as obsolete and beyond skeptical about the wily Putin, are alarmed that Trump might be quite capable of feeding Eastern Europe into the meatgrinder of his own ever-famished self-esteem.  What they seem to be missing is the largely ignored recognition throughout the ex-Communist bloc that too ambitious a territorial engorgement usually leads to a cosmic bellyache.

Perhaps the first president to comprehend this was Richard Nixon.  Universally reviled at the moment in the aftermath of Watergate, perhaps Nixon ought to be reconsidered as the author of much of the progressive legislation Donald Trump and his crew of reactionary sellouts are in such a hurry to scrap, from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO, Bob Kennedy's inspiration) and the Witness Protection legislation that led to the breakup of the Mafia.  Having recognized the hopelessness of the misbegotten struggle in Viet Nam, Nixon sent my friend Maurice Williams to China to sound out Mao and open the way to the Paris Peace Talks.  Williams would remember Richard Nixon as the most intelligent among the several presidents for whom he undertook troubleshooting missions.  Nixon understood that the war was a burden to the Chinese too.  Soon afterwards Henry Kissinger had pressured the Soviets out of Egypt and the Middle East.

When positioning ourselves vis-a-vis today's Russia, we ought to keep in mind just how the Russian state that Putin has taken over turned into what it is.  General John Reppert, a St. Petersburg friend who found himself the primary Russian-language translator for our military delegation in Moscow during the Gorbashev years, has filled me in on details that don't seem to be commonly available.  The Reagan administration's breakthroughs in Star War technology left Russian scientists stunned, at least a generation behind. More immediately, the essential realization that the Comintern appear to have absorbed was that empire and great power status had now become intolerably expensive.  That led to the release of the Soviet grip on the East Bloc -- Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, finally -- with misgivings -- the DDR.  But even the fourteen secondary republics that made up the USSR seemed to cost a lot more than they contributed, and by 1991, rather abruptly, the Supreme Soviet under Gorbashev's rather shaky leadership had cut them all loose.  Containment had paid off in a major -- and unexpected -- way!

In many quarters -- certainly among old KGB hands -- this was a blunder that Putin would not scruple to label treason.  Much of the old Russia's industry was located in largely Russian-speaking Ukraine.  The Crimea was Russia's primary port on the Black Sea, vital to both commerce and the Russian navy.  With its faltering Third-World economy, dependent largely on oil exports, Russia had pretty much eviscerated itself, and its ruling oligarchy was subject to acute sellers' remorse.  Putin would attempt a recovery.

Having themselves briefly abandoned Great Power Status, the Russians are now attempting to
recoup.  How far they get is going to depend on us.

Cheers, as always,