Cold War With Russia — Again?
Since moving to the D.C. area, I’ve become a wonk — yes that is an official term. While it can mean a studious or hardworking person — things I certainly hope I am, it mostly means a person who takes an excessive interest in minor details of political policy. It unofficially means the kind of person — often a female — who likes and remembers all the sticky details of a subject. Said female is often considered boring, overly studious, and generally not sexy in the least little bit.
In other words, a female wonk is the 21st century version of a bluestocking.
So when I was invited last week to Georgetown University to hear Ambassador Linton Brooks talk about the U.S. relationship with Russia, I immediately jumped at the chance.
Being on the Georgetown campus is amazing. I love surrounding myself with all these intent young people who are firmly lodged in the realm of ideas. They are students who want to make a difference. To be in that world makes me feel young and optimistic and as if the world is a more hopeful place.
Imagine my dismay to hear that our relations with Russia are getting worse daily. I might have my head in the clouds, but when the Wall came down, and the U.S. and Russia decided to decrease nuclear arms, I thought we were once again friends. I thought the biggest fracas before Ukraine was the style war between Raisa Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan.
Ambassador Brooks worked on both the START and START 2 treaties. He made it clear that all opinions were his own and not of any official U.S. agency. As he went over the current situation, chills ran down my back.
“Ten years ago no one cared about Russia as a threat. Even John McCain said, ‘Russia is a gas station’ … with atom bombs.” But we are belatedly coming to realize Russia does matter. “Their interest is the same as ours in dealing with the issues of the Middle East. They are an important vote on the UN Security Council,” and they’re the only country that “could destroy Washington before the hour was up.”
Brooks then went on to say, “The Bush Administration said Russia is no longer a threat. Obama has tried to strengthen our relationship. But Clinton, Bush and Obama have all failed.”
Here are some of Brooks’ points in his words:
- “The Ukraine annexation is the most important event in Russo-U.S. relations since the cold war.”
- “It’s the first time since WWII that a country has been annexed.”
- “It’s a violation of the Helsinki Act”
- “But Ukraine is a symptom — the disease is much deeper.”
- “Russians do not trust us.”
- “Russians are misreading American character.”
- Brooks does not believe that Putin is trying to recreate the Soviet Union.
- “They believe we’re trying to destabilize them.”
- “They believe we’re looking for first strike capability.” He goes on to say Putin especially believes this.
I don’t know about all of you, but this has me worried. I grew up in a world where the Cold War was real. It was the basis of a lot of great spy novels with thrilling plots and twists and turns. However, I’d give up every bit of the pleasure of reading those adventures for this not to be a repeated reality.
While I don’t have answers, and neither for that matter does Brooks, it’s important we understand the issues, that we know what is going on beyond our boarders, and that our new President, whomever that might be, will be knowledgeable and able to make inroads toward peace.
Despite his major faults, Nixon, a man not known for his social skills, single-handedly was able to convey the spirit of friendship to Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese people who, to this day, revere him and remember him with incredible respect. Even in the Beijing Dirty Market (now known as the Antiquities Market since the Beijing Olympics) I have often seen statues, pictures and even watches with Nixon’s face on them right next to identical souvenirs featuring Mao, who until this day is greatly loved.
Hopefully one day there will be similar things in the Russian stalls honoring the U.S. President who understood peace can only begin with trust.