People walk with flags and balloons towards St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square during a rally in Moscow May 1, 2014. Russians celebrate the coming of Spring and since communist times, Labour Day on the first day of May.  REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (RUSSIA - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)

There was a time, and that was when the Soviet Union was yet around, when American presidents kept a hawk’s eye on what the leadership in Moscow was up to. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman were constantly in a state of alert about what Joseph Stalin might be planning. Wariness about each other defined ties between Moscow and Washington.

In the eight-year presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, it was the Cold War which took over. That was even more reason for the White House to stay one step ahead of what the communists in Moscow, led by Nikita Khrushchev, planned to do about their links with the United States. An unforgotten image of US-Soviet rivalry, in nearly every sphere, remains that of a so-called kitchen debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Premier Khrushchev at an American trade fair in Moscow in 1959. Khrushchev told Nixon that Soviet communism would bury American capitalism. Nixon brushed it off as bluster.

Through the 1960s, Washington was endlessly engaged in monitoring Soviet activities around the globe. The Soviets were caught red-handed by the American administration of President John F. Kennedy when they secretly tried to install missiles in Cuba in October 1962. It exploded into a major crisis when, eyeball to eyeball, Moscow and Washington waited to see who blinked first. In the end, both countries went into a compromise. America would move its base out of Turkey and the Soviet Union would take back its missiles from Cuba. The world heaved a sigh of relief.

Neither Moscow nor Washington was ready to lose the race for the moon. In the event, America’s astronauts won out over Soviet cosmonauts, in July 1969. On a larger scale, both nations inaugurated the Space Age through the 1960s, opening up varied possibilities for the human race in terms of future scientific explorations of the universe.

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 elicited a severe verbal response from the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, though it was not enough to force Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev into backing down and leaving Prague in the hands of the liberal communist Alexander Dubcek and letting him preside over communism with a human face in his country. But American pressure on the USSR was relentless, then and later. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon decided that détente was an idea that needed to be worked on. Mutual respect, albeit grudging, led to results.

In the Reagan era, communism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe went into clear decline. Before a crowd at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, President Reagan demanded of the Soviet leader then holding office in Moscow: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” He was referring to the notorious Berlin Wall.

By the end of 1991, through adroit American diplomacy and through careful as also sinister undermining of Moscow, the Soviet Union disintegrated.

That was a different era.

And these are different times today.

The Russian Federation, successor to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) has now made its careful, calculated entry into American politics. The resignation of General Michael Flynn, national security advisor in the administration of President Donald Trump, on grounds of his contacts with Russia’s ambassador in Washington vis-à-vis US sanctions, is proof.

Observe the landscape, in America. The Russians appear to be all over the place, raising the suspicion that sooner rather than later it will be Trump’s head that will roll if more damaging information of his and his aides’ ties to Moscow are revealed by the media and the intelligence agencies. His advisors, as is now known, kept in regular contact with senior Russian officials in the course of the divisive campaign for the American presidency last year.

That begs the question: to what extent were President Vladimir Putin and his government involved in manipulating the election in favour of Donald Trump? The answer is plain — a whole lot. Consider the ease with which the Russians hacked Democratic Party emails and then made an entry into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump at one point noted that he loved what the Russians were doing to the Democrats.

With each day that has gone by since the US election went in favour of Donald Trump, suspicions of what the Russians might have done in hacking the voting machines and manipulating the vote figures against Hillary Clinton have grown. The Flynn resignation and Trump’s conciliatory, almost genuflecting attitude toward Moscow and Putin would appear to validate this argument.

And do not forget that dossier on Donald Trump from a former British intelligence officer, details of which the Russians have in their hands. Careful inquiries are beginning to reveal the truth underpinning the dossier. That Trump employed Russian prostitutes to soil the bed the Obamas slept in on a trip to Moscow is a real possibility given Trump’s visceral hatred for America’s first black president. That Trump engaged in sordid sexual acts in Moscow, which reportedly have been recorded by the Russians, is also a distinct possibility given the new American leader’s long history of dark sexual behaviour.

The bottom line cannot be missed. The Russians, having entered Budapest in 1956, Prague in 1968 and Kabul in 1979, have now come to Washington.

O, those Russians!

Syed Badrul Ahsanis a columnist.

3 Responses to “O, those Russians!”

  1. Tarin

    Having lived in Moscow during Putin’s first presidency its very interesting to see how the tables have turned and now the question is: how can they sustain their roles?

  2. Anwar A. Khan

    The disintegration of the Soviet Union has created a new geopolitical situation. The balance of power in global politics has been grievously afflicted. The US has taken the headmanship to show their red eyes to the rest of the world according to their wishes.
    Trump and Putin have had a very public mutual admiration society. Putin called Trump very colorful. Trump called Putin a strong leader and further pleased him by questioning whether the US should defend NATO members that did not spend enough on their military.
    President Trump has pledged to be a strongman, just like Putin. American voters have just handed him the keys; he will assume the awesome power of the presidency along with Republican control of the Congress. There will be very little check on whatever a President Trump wants to do. His authoritarian tendencies have been clear for all as different newspaper reports say so.
    American voters have set the country on a dangerous path! The bottom line will be a new authoritarian rule in America. Trump has threatened to sue women who accuse him of sexual assault, to limit reporter’s access to him and his events, and to change libel laws to make it easier to punish news organisations that report facts about him that he does not like.
    Russia still remains a great power with a huge nuclear arsenal.

  3. golam arshad

    Dear Syed Badrul Ahsan: A write up deserves all appreciations! From Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Nixon, the ranging eye of from Stalin’s Moscow to Hawkish Khrushev, the mighty myth of Soviet Union, sparkled hypnotised and riddled out with Gorbachev! The Americans wins! Putin ploy to nudge into a strategic move to outwit Americans, now hit the hard rock. Putin would face-off with Trump Rage and American Pride. Democrats and Republican will turn to bang out the Russian so called juggernaut pull shot! First Round went to Russia, and the next round, of course will boost the Americans to outwit the fade out Russian Pride. Wait and see! How Trump bangs the Russian? Americans will unite to jam push the Russian to their abode of isolation.

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