This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice, Louisiana, USA the week of 3/2/2015

In the late 1980s I breathed a sigh of relief as the world observed the collapse of the Soviet Union. This collapse was so quick and complete that it left one wondering if there ever had been a cold war. It started with protests in Poland followed by people illegally crossing from communist controlled countries to freedom in the west. The collapse was culminated by the fall of the Berlin wall and the introduction of a democratic government and introduction of a market economy in Russia.
Russia had teething pains as it moved from total communistic rule to democracy. This was a big change for a people that that had been micromanaged for over half a century. America did send advisors and eventually Russia said they don’t need any more advice, they needed investments. This did come in the way of oil and gas.
With the move to capitalism Russia had to look at how to fund its massive military. This military was forced to down size as money was not available to support the gigantic military machine. Then a jaw dropping event occurred in the early 1990s that left the most die-hard communist questioning what would have happened had the Soviet Union gone to war against NATO.
In 1991 a coalition force hit Iraq and the Iraqi invaders in Kuwait. This attack was so well coordinated at every level with so much sophisticated firepower that even the most trained military tactician would stand in awe. A military that had been armed and trained by the Soviet Union had been completely annihilated by a force that left the battlefield with relatively small causalities. Earlier perceived Russian domination of military forces was now left in question.
Russia entered a period of growth and capitalism that left the world in relative peace. The two great adversaries, America and Russia were now trading partners. The terror of a nuclear holocaust diminished while nuclear bomb shelters became a figment of one’s imagination. Children no longer practiced ducking under desks during simulated attacks. We were at peace.
As Russia climbed the economic ladder of capitalism and as free trade was developed and embraced within the country a restlessness began to take emerge. Russia was still living with the shadow of the West and specifically the successful United States. Russia wanted more of the respect that it had achieved during an earlier period. Enter Vladimir Putin.
Putin was well educated and a member of the Russian KGB. He watched as mother Russia was transformed from a colossal empire to a country with an economy eclipsed by some individual American states. Putin wanted to bring his country back to the greatness it had achieved and to do this he would modernize his military and call on the spirit of the Russian people. He also understood the manipulation that would be required and then how divisions within the NATO alliance perpetuated by a weak American foreign policy would provide the perfect opportunity to act.
Putin began his campaign with verbal rhetoric and has now followed up with military intervention in the Ukraine. The West stood by as he annexed the Crimea and thus showed the weakened underbelly of our country and Europe. Putin has supported Syria and had we made a stand in that country and supported the revolution against Syria three years ago ISIS would not have had an opportunity to rise. Now Russian troops and arms are flowing into the war in the Ukraine and the best we can do is impose limited sanctions and provide MREs and night vision goggles to an underequipped Ukrainian army instead of providing the hardware required to stop the Russian invasion. Of course Putin denies any involvement and dares anyone to contradict him.
This week an incident reminiscent of the days of Stalin and Khrushchev occurred on the streets of Moscow. A Russian dissident that had been a leader in the fall of communism was hours away from presenting proof that Russia was actually involved in the war in the Ukraine was walking across a bridge in Moscow. A car pulled up behind him and a gunman fired four shots into the man’s back killing him. Putin immediately shouted his rage at the incident and then declared that he would personally oversee the criminal case. Again, Putin feels world will be made to look stupid as any documentation that would incriminate Russia in the Ukraine will disappear.
Russia is winning and despite economic sanctions and drastically reduced oil and gas revenues, the population is enamored by the new savor of Russia while America can do nothing but watch as a new adversary grows stronger before our eyes. The biggest fear is that the cold war will be rekindled and the dread of a major war that we grew up in will once again return to the lives or our children and grandchildren.

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