Every time you think about World War I you want to ram your head against the wall in anger and disgust. How could all these people be so monumentally stupid? The same thing would be true of any war between the United States and Russia. How could anybody be dumb enough to blunder into that?
Russia and China are neighbors, two of the world’s great powers and together dominate the land mass of the world’s super continent, Eurasia. They are rivals and will be in perpetuity. They dislike and fear each other. And they both would love to have the USA on their side if a dispute arises between them. They’re the only two countries in the world that we have to really worry about. We want friendly relations with both, and want to maintain stability with and between them. Neither is our geopolitical rival. Nobody is. All great powers, including Japan and Western Europe, are entitled to spheres of influence. Wars are avoided when great powers acknowledge and respect those spheres of influence. That’s the way the world works.
In 1973 Henry Kissinger was meeting Brezhnev in Moscow, making preparations for Nixon’s upcoming visit. Old Leonid insisted on taking him boar hunting, where they sat alone in a blind with an interpreter, and the Soviet ruler unburdened his soul about the Chinese Communist regime. “Treacherous barbarians” he called them, and at that moment Kissinger knew one of the great feats in American diplomacy had succeeded. The Russians wanted an understanding with the United States about their problems with China. The Chinese wanted one themselves, vis a vis Russia, and America was in the catbird seat.
Nothing much has changed, at least in this regard, in the 43 years since. Russia wants an understanding with us with respect to their China issues. Our friendship and support of Russia is the most powerful restraint we can have on them. Our threats of military involvement in a European war are empty. The American people admire and respect the people of Estonia. We’re just not willing to die for them, or anybody else, for that matter. We don’t do foreign land wars any more. That’s all behind us. We will do everything we can to discourage Russian imperialism. They must respect Western Europe’s sphere of influence, just as Western Europe must respect theirs. The United Sates is a perfect middle man, as long as it respects Russian interests as well as it does West Europe’s.
In 1973 Nixon succeeded with detente, or a lessening of tension, with the Soviet Union. Now, with Russia, we need to seek entente, or a mutual understanding. I really don’t think Donald Trump is capable of such diplomacy, but there’s got to be another Henry Kissinger out there somewhere to to do it for him. He can do the photo ops. I don’t like the idea of the Russians meddling in our elections. But it looks like they’ve got plausible deniability, so they may get away with it. We can never let it happen again. But that does not affect geopolitical reality. The Russians, of all the great powers, are our natural friends. Oh, I almost forgot. They’re the one with all the ICBM’s too. Western Europe may have lost the will to live. Vladimir Putin hasn’t.
Nixon and Kissinger get deserved credit for the opening with China, and detente with the Soviets. Actually, they get more credit than they deserve. Morris Childs, the most consequential spy in American history, deserves a lot of it himself. He was the only man to ever be awarded the Soviet Order of the Red Banner (1975) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1987). His story is told in Operation Solo, and I recommend it highly. Steven Spielberg, are you listening?
He was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his whole family were Communists. He became ill in the late 40’s, and was discarded by the American Communist Party, where he had been a leader. He became disillusioned with Communism, and the FBI recruited him as a double agent, sending him to the Mayo Clinic where he recovered his health. As an American spy, he rejoined the Party, and quickly rose to prominence. He would accompany Party Chair Gus Hall on trips to Moscow, and was responsible, over the years, for funneling a total of $28 million from the Soviets to the American Communist Party.
Both Soviet and Chinese Communist leaders had a wildly inaccurate understanding of the American Communist Party, which was a joke. But they accorded Hall and Childs great respect, treating them as American emissaries, in an odd way. And in the 50’s and 60’s they complained bitterly about one another, and wanted the American Communist Party in their corner. From the mouths of Kruschev, Brezhnev, and Mao Tse Tung, Morris Childs was told the truth about Sino-Soviet relations, and every American President since Eisenhower had an ear in the Kremlin and Red Square. Nixon wasn’t a geopolitical genius. He just listened to what Morris Childs was telling him.
President Reagan had the honor to present the Medal of Freedom to Morris, in a private ceremony. His older brother Jack, an accomplice, received one posthumously. He married his wife Eva in 1962, and he told her what he was doing, and she signed on herself. She accompanied him on his foreign trips, and was in great danger herself.
When he was courting her they would take long drives in rural America, and he wondered aloud to her about how stupid he had been to try to destroy a country with such wonderful people.