Lowering the Ante with Putin Is Better Advice

Some dude by the name of Avraham Shama writes that Joe Biden needs to up the ante if he hopes to get anything from Vlad Putin. So I looked him up before disagreeing, as I like to know when I’m out-ranked, a hold-over from my brief military career.

He doesn’t rate a Wikipedia page (nor do I) but Google Books has this to say:

AVRAHAM SHAMA is Professor of Management at the Robert O. Anderson School of Management, The University of New Mexico. His specialty is the political and economic transformation of eastern Europe.

Having lived in Prague for 28 years, I disagree

Putin is somewhat of a gangster, no doubt, but even Al Capone was a guy you could have a conversation with. It was never a good idea to up the ante with Al unless you held a very strong hand.

And the fact is, we have no hand at all with Russia these days. There were opportunities, but for some strange reason America always chose to play hard-ball with our former WWII ally.

Blame it on communism, but know the facts

The Yalta and Potsdam Conferences brought Britain, the Soviet Union and United States together to decide the fate of a defeated Germany. Like so many world events, it was very complicated, but the end-result was pretty simple.

Other issues aside, it was there that Stalin made his demands regarding Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. He wanted them and was in no mood to blink. It was a big ask, but the USSR lost 27 million people in that war, a third of them soldiers.

That staggering number was 25 times the total allied losses and what became the ‘Iron Curtain’ countries was his payoff. Not many know or understand that today. So the nation that saved democracy became an American enemy. How did that even happen?

Take your pick of reasons

Because communism was going to take over the world? Some would say that, but communism couldn’t even get the crops out of the field during harvest. Others worried about their nuclear arsenal, yet the US is the only nation that ever actually used such a device. Maybe it was Soviet belligerence over the Berlin air-lift, who would know?

My personal opinion is that it was largely the war-mongering diplomacy of Allen Dulles whose shadow hangs over the CIA today. As head of the CIA during the early Cold War, he oversaw the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état, the Lockheed U-2 aircraft program, the Project MKUltra mind control program and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He was fired by John F. Kennedy over the Cuba fiasco. He had a classic stick-in-the-eye mentality and Allen may have been a cool guy at a dinner-party but he was a disaster as father of the CIA.

At any rate we are where we are

But it’s a choice. We chose to block the communist USSR at every opportunity, yet Nixon welcomed the largest communist country in the world into the capitalist West. The result of that choice is a forty-year shadow over Europe and an ever-so-slow move on the part of China to surpass our economic strength.

Diplomatically, militarily and economically, America has made every mistake in the book since the end of World War Two. I confess to ignorance regarding Avraham Shama’s take on our progress, as I haven’t read his books. But fair is fair and he hasn’t read mine either.

Things I know to be true

We are on the wrong side of history when we up the ante under any circumstances. Diplomacy is not a poker-game, although many nations treat it as such. Economic sanctions against Russian nationals will not work, because they have no power to change men’s minds but are very effective at hardening positions. Backing away from a bluff is a very hard thing to do and bluster seldom brings anyone closer to agreement.

The 1918 Versailles Treaty crippled Germany economically and brought another world war within twenty years. That’s an absolute fact, look it up. Versailles brought us Hitler. That’s how well sanctions work.

Europe had been at war with itself for two thousand years, yet the combination of the Marshall Plan and the formation of the European Union broke that history—not by threat of force, but by the force of ideas.

Russia is the natural geographic partner for inclusion into the economic and social community of Western nations.

We need to lower the ante, not raise it

Vladimir Putin wants what all nations want once they recover from the growing-pains of independence–the respect and cooperation of  the world community. He feels Russia is disrespected and, as an old KGB man, he’ll put up with a lot that comes his way, but can’t stand to be disrespected. Who among us wouldn’t feel the same?

If Mao Zedong, the communist founder of modern China could sit down with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to adjust China’s path, explain to me in more detail, Mr. Shama, just how we benefit from upping the ante with Putin.


Image Credit: thebostoncalendar.com

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