Vladimir Putin and the New Cold War

At a meeting with my literary agent last spring, I recall him saying that the Cold War, and the way in which it influenced our lives in the 1980’s, wasn’t relevant to the interests of this generation’s publishers and editors. Hesitantly, I nodded, even though I sensed that the reality was rapidly changing, and the very fears I’d harbored and chronicled in my writings about the hostilities between the United States and the former Soviet Union, were again taking center stage. Now, I wish that I’d been wrong. In, what seems like only a few stormy months, the scenario has so dramatically changed that I can scarcely wrap my mind around the ramifications of the present threat that we’re facing.

The current crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s annex and invasion of its neighboring country have seemed almost unreal, considering the festive global competitions held during Russia’s winter Olympics. Yet, even before the last gold medals were safely packed away, the world witnessed the first major signs of the unthinkable meltdown that would follow.

The tide didn’t simply turn; we actually sailed into unchartered waters. Observers in the United States and most of Europe are shocked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increased hostility toward the West and his bold invasions into Ukraine, even while facing economic sanctions. Suddenly, we’re forced to acknowledge a “new Cold War” and a rogue who’s unfazed by international condemnation.

Putin’s latest actions are particularly shocking to this generation. After all, it’s been twenty-three years since the Soviet Union collapsed, and along with it, the threatening scenario of the Cold War that pitted communist-bloc countries against those belonging to NATO. Until this spring, when Russia brazenly annexed Crimea, Putin’s credentials and former KGB involvement sparked relatively little debate, because in many minds, those dark days were over. Unfortunately, however, this may have been a costly mistake. Vladimir Putin’s history may actually speak volumes about his ideology, value system and the true nature of his character.

It’s ironic that, while recently speaking at a youth camp, Putin uttered that: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

Then, further exclaimed: “Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

Threatening comments such as these were only used back during the most confrontational periods of the Cold War. The fact that Putin, himself, reminds the West of his nuclear arsenal establishes a new and dangerous precedent.

The growing tensions, particularly between Russia and the United States, are not completely surprising, especially for those who still hold memories of the complex and frightening nature of the Cold War. I learned, first hand, some thirty-two years ago, about the menacing nature of Moscow’s russia Ukraine warv motives, especially when it came to America. It wasn’t by choice, however, but by pure accident.

It was in 1982, while I was a young, fairly naïve, senior at Howard University, that I served as a Congressional Intern in U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker’s office. Working at the Capitol, with its dynamic atmosphere, was one of the most exciting experiences that I’d hope to have. I looked forward to participating in various news-making events, and would even hitch-hike to an anti-nuclear rally in New York. It was all very thrilling. But, an incident occurred during that same year that would open my eyes to something equally as threatening.

I was shocked to learn that, contrary to the James Bond movies I’d often watched, KGB agents and other spies weren’t limited to exotic locations in distant lands. Espionage and other clandestine activities, took place right in the nation’s Capital. In fact, I’d somehow stumbled right into the midst of them.


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