CHARMING THE ADVERSARIES?

Scratching the Bear’s Back

                                                      ‘Work is work, and play is play’                                                                                — Russian Proverb

By Ladson F. Mills III

Invincible arrogance combined with an ignorance of American political history is the

Ladson F. Mills III, essayist and author.

definitive trademark of anti-Trump hysteria.

Whether President Trump’s reluctance to confront Vladimir Putin was the result of inexperience or an attempt to constructively engage depends upon one’s point of view. Suggestions that his actions were unprecedented are disingenuous.

American Presidents regularly attempt to charm even the most despicable adversary when it is in the nation’s interest. And since World War II Russia has been the primary recipient of these initiatives.

In 1942 Franklin Roosevelt began his charm offensive with Russian Dictator Joseph Stalin, referring to him affectionately as “Uncle Joe.”  Stalin was anything, but the kindly old uncle figure suggested by the nickname. His evil eclipsed even that of Adolf Hitler and made anything yet seen in Vladimir Putin look like the junior varsity.

The June 1961 Vienna Summit between President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was eerily similar to the recent meeting in Helsinki. Mr. Kennedy was cautioned against meeting with the more experienced Soviet leader. His advisors were concerned that he  had misjudged Khrushchev’s personality and intentions. Despite numerous objections, the meeting took place and was initially considered a success. This view quickly changed.

Kennedy admitted he had been savaged by the older and wily Khrushchev. But he learned from his mistakes as witnessed by his handling of the 1962 Cuban Missle crises.

Jimmy Carter’s personal popularity may have risen sharply during his decades as a former President, but his administration was known for diplomatic missteps. His support for Robert Mugabe’s Presidency of Zimbabwe destroyed that once thriving country. His physical embrace of Panamian Dictator Omar Torrijos during the Panama Canal treaty signing was an embarrassment.

His claim that a personal relationship with Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev would be critical for world peace was denigrated, but it led to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.

President George W. Bush stated that he looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and saw a man he could trust. And President Barack Obama’s attempt to cozy up to Vladimir Putin was unmasked in an open microphone during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea. Mr. Obama was caught sending assurances to Putin that after his re-election he would have more flexibility to meet Russian  treaty concerns.

President Obama embraced the cold-blooded killer and dictator Raul Castro in his effort to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.  He returned billions of dollars to the radical Islamic leaders of Iran who remain sworn enemies of the United States. He used taxpayer money to support anti-Netanyahu candidates in Israeli national elections.

Conveniently overlooked in the anti-Trump hysteria was the attempt by the Obama Administration’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to thwart Vladimir Putin’s 2011 Presidential campaign.   


The Helsinki meeting was a no-win situation for President Trump. Continual pleading and empty threats reinforce what should be self-evident. If the United States possessed the capability to respond to Russian hacking, it would have already done so.  Some estimates place America’s cyber warfare skills lagging eight years behind the Russians. In the cyber world, this equates to a lifetime.

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morrell has called for senior members of the intelligence community to resign in protest after being disrespected by Mr. Trump. Morrell should be less concerned with disrespect and more as to why he and senior colleagues allowed these disparities to remain unchallenged.

Mr. Trump’s Congressional critics continually expose themselves for having been asleep at the switch. Efforts to place the blame on the President are a smokescreen to cover decades of incompetent and inadequate Congressional leadership whose principal aim seems to be staying in power.

The example from the mainstream media has proven to be equally vacuous. “Washington Post” columnist Kathleen Parker’s article “Trump’s Chaos endangers NATO” states, ‘he is a wise guy from Queens and apparently hasn’t yet managed overcome childhood insecurities.’

Ms. Parker might charitably be overlooked for rendering tirades outside her area of expertise, but the sycophantic adoration from fellow journalist regarding Chris Wallace’s post-summit interview with Vladimir Putin borders on the delusional.

Mr. Wallace received high praise despite Mr. Putin’s masterful control of the interview. When confronted with a copy of the Mueller committee’s indictment against Russian intelligence officers responsible for the hacking it was suggested the Russian President seemed rattled. Anyone who accepts this might benefit from reviewing the video.

Putin came across like a chess player forming a strategic response rather than a man who was rattled.  If he had wanted to play nice, he might have accepted the paper from Wallace or called on an aide to do so. Instead, he refused. Mr. Wallace was forced to place the document on a table as though being dismissed as an irritating messenger.

Russia may suffer from an inferiority complex in dealing with the west, but that does not mean it should be overlooked or dismissed. Ninety percent of the world’s nuclear weapons are shared between the United States and Russia.

It is something President Trump’s more vocal critics might be wise to take notice.

During my college years, I jogged a park which housed the remaining vestiges of a small zoo. Long past its prime, it had become the sort of place animal rights activist lobby to shut down. Only a few animals remained one of which was an elderly black bear with whom I developed a familiarity.

He would place his back against the chain link fence to scratch it, and I would use my fingers to assist. After several months I decided to take the relationship to another level and attempted to scratch his nose. It was a miscalculation.

Whether my escape resulted from instinct or luck, I do not know. But I remember the shock of his teeth against my skin as he snapped at my finger. I managed to extract it before being known for the rest of my life by the moniker nine fingers.

Bears are dangerous. Still, President Trump was correct to emulate his predecessors in scratching the Russian Bear’s back.

Only time will tell if it is advisable to move to another level.

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Ladson F. Mills III, a former Marine Corps Line Officer, and Navy Chaplain is the founder of Setebos-Sixpence Freelance Writing Ltd.  He lives with his wife in Charleston, South Carolina. He is a regular contributor to The Covert Letter and Virtueonline. Mills’ book, “Abandoned ShipmateThe Destruction of Coast Guard Captain Ernie Blanchard,” is scheduled for publication in August.