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!