I have always been wary of Russians and their motives and strategies. This began in my college years when Sputnik was released. The action put fear in most of us then, because we had nothing to compete with this remarkable space achievement.
The Cold War was an enigma because we never knew what the Reds were going to do.
Skip to the Sochi Olympics, where the U.S. press had us all thinking that a terrorist event was a sure thing there. Vladimir Putin gained a lot of respect as he squelched any such attacks on his shift.
Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine situation is not our business. Secretary of State John Kerry has no business going there trying to convince them to cease and desist.
As I further contemplated this matter, I realized that the Russians always have an ace in the hole that we don’t have. Russian presidents and leaders have always found a way to get rid of their adversaries: They kill them.
Joseph Stalin killed approximately 20 million people during his reign. As ruler of the Soviet Union, he is considered one of the biggest mass-murderers in the history of the world. It is estimated that he killed over seven times as many people as Hitler did.
An estimate of 400,000 killed under Khrushchev and 200,000 under Brezhnev seems outrageous. This doesn’t include victims from events like the Soviet crushing of uprisings in Prague and Hungary or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In addition, you have to consider whether death from neglect or overwork is equal to shooting someone, first-degree murder in effect. If not, death tolls are in the low thousands for those two leaders.
Surprisingly, in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev is alleged to have ordered the KGB to murder almost 2,000 key persons related to the plunder of USSR assets where large-scale theft of gold and foreign exchange reserves took place in organized criminal gangs. As a result, 1,746 mysterious suicides of the high-ranking Soviet officials ensued.
Boris Yeltsin’s campaign to subdue the secessionists in Chechnya, starting in December 1994, left as many as 80,000 people dead. It undermined his moral authority and threatened his hold on power. It exposed the breakdown of the once-vaunted Russian military machine. And it raised concern about the stability of a country still holding a huge nuclear arsenal.
Putin was named by Yeltsin as prime minister of Russia. Almost immediately, Putin ordered a massive bombing campaign against the tiny, defenseless breakaway republic of Chechnya, apparently seeing the reassertion of Russian power there as key to overall resurgence of Russia’s military and state security apparatus, his primary political objective.
He was forced to acknowledge the horrific consequences of the bombing. Hundreds of civilians were killed and tens of thousands were left homeless as civilian targets were attacked. World opinion began to turn starkly against Russia, especially in Europe, very similarly to the manner in which it polarized against U.S. President George Bush over Iraq. Putin’s poll numbers in Russia began to slide.
Alexander Litvinenko, KGB defector and Putin critic, was mysteriously and fatally poisoned by radioactive polonium obtained from Russian sources under Putin’s regime.
We would classify these Russian leaders as criminals because of their murderous ways. But I am not totally certain that the United States has not gotten involved in killing political enemies. The CIA, NSA and FBI are all under cover, and who they kill — if they do so — is never a front-page story.
Obviously, we should tread lightly with the Russians.
Still, their 2014 Winter Olympics games were fabulous.