We laughed, we sophisticated anti-establishment types, at the notion of ‘reds under the bed’. But then we discovered some grisly truths. And now there’s Kaliningrad, Russia’s military outpost on Europe’s doorstep (pictured above). Kaliningrad is no laughing matter.
Let’s get one thing straight. Joseph Raymond McCarthy was a nasty and vindictive piece of work.
Got that? OK. Moving on.
Whatever you think of Joe McCarthy, anyone who thinks there weren’t ‘reds under the bed’ in 1950s America has their head up their arse. And there were still reds under the bed until, well, maybe there still are. They’re not called ‘sleeper agents’ for nothing.
But received wisdom today involves the illusion of cause and effect. Joe McCarthy was a liar and a bully. He conducted witch hunts against those he didn’t agree with. Therefore, any suggestion he made, ‘facts’ he put in the public domain, and accusations he made against individuals were completely without foundation. Russia never put ‘sleepers’ into American everyday life, nor tried in any way to influence political thinking in the West.
Do you believe that? Let’s hope not. Mind you, there are young people out there today who think that Vladimir Putin gets a bad press. Here’s some news for you: there isn’t a lie bad enough to do Putin justice.
Putin was a street thug, a gangster, until he was promoted to the biggest gang in Russia – the KGB. If you believe he didn’t privatise Russian industry for his own and his friends’ benefits, you should probably stop reading now.
But among those ‘friends’ whom he enriched, have been one or two with a conscience. They have publicly stood up to him, and criticised his leadership. Where are they now? Dead. Or exiled. Or in prison on trumped up charges.
How quickly do we want to forget the outrageous murder – in a London hotel – of Alexander Litvinenko by a method which could, even today, be killing other people who were close by at the time. The first consequential death was that of radiation expert Dr Matthew Puncher, who ‘repeatedly stabbed himself’ (oh really?) until he died from loss of blood. If you don’t believe these events were spurred on by Putin himself, then we have a marshmallow car that runs on sugar – yours for a million quid.
So much for glasnost
Russian politics in the last 100 years has been a rough old game. And the mentality that created it seems to be genetic. Mikhail Gorbachev was a Russian with whom, Margaret Thatcher believed, ‘we could do business’. When he came to London, there was a press conference at which some tough questions were asked, in true Brit tabloid style.
Gorbachev’s response was telling. “We are not your soft western politicians. You cannot talk to us like this.” So much for ‘glasnost’.
The world bequeathed to us by Barack Obama is a lot more dangerous than the one he inherited. Having painted two ‘red lines’ for Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Assad called both of Obama’s bluffs, and Obama did nothing.
Sensing an historic opportunity to become a power-broker in the Middle East – where previously America and Europe had held sway – Putin entered the fray on Assad’s side. Power shifted viscerally.
History will be rewritten in the next four years. Donald Trump will either make the world even more dangerous, or he will reveal a Russia that wants to emerge into the light; a Russia we can trust.
Trump’s criticisms of Nato are music to the ears of Vladimir Putin. Even Trump’s own Defence Secretary-elect, General James Mattis, acknowledges that Putin has been trying to ‘break the Northern Atlantic Alliance’. He describes Putin’s attitude to Nato as the biggest threat to world order since World War 2.
What does Trump know?
So we have to hope that Donald Trump knows something we – and his Defence Secretary – don’t know. If Trump deals with Russia on its own terms, and stops the sword-waving, maybe we will discover that there is no further need for the West to be paranoid about Russia.
But if that really is the case, why is Putin using Kaliningrad, wedged between Poland and Lithuania, as a fully-stocked military base, complete with nuclear-capable missiles? Useful idiots (as Stalin referred to western supporters of the USSR) claim that Putin fears a Nato attack on Kaliningrad. Really?
Which is more credible – the notion that Nato would attack a Russian enclave on Europe’s own doorstep? Or that Russia might use that enclave to move on the Balkan states in much the same way it moved on Ukraine?
One way or the other, we’ll find out in the next four years. Over to you President Trump.