If we put a face on the greatest threat to America today, it has to be the face of Vladimir Putin, president of Russia. He has led a bipolar life. A man of humble beginnings who rose to prominence in the government of the homeland he loves, he is also a maniacal and ruthless leader with scant moral character. Every American needs to know this man and watch carefully the relationships between both countries and both presidents. Here are some facts to consider.
There are more immediate threats to America such as North Korea and radical Islam, but Russia remains the only threat that can virtually annihilate us. It is the only nation with a nuclear arsenal that could total destroy our densest population centers and has shown the capability and willingness to wreck our internet. The country is also assessed to be capable of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could destroy our electrical power grids. Only one man in the world could make any of this happen with a nod of his head.
Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad, Russia, to parents of very modest means. He was a troubled child in primary school but began to take his studies and behavior more seriously in high school. He seemed to have developed a personal vision as a teen for doing something great to advance his country. In 1975, he graduated from Leningrad State University with a law degree. He became infatuated with the field of intelligence and in the late 1970’s enrolled in the KGB school in the capital city of Moscow. The English translation for KGB is “Committee for State Security,” which is loosely the counterpart for the American CIA. He advanced quickly to a high level position with the Soviet Union intelligence service.
In 1983, he married Lyudmila Shkrebneva, a flight attendant, just before departing to his first KGB field position in East Germany. They had two daughters, Maria and Katerina. The couple divorced in 2013. Putin is officially single, but a long-standing rumor has it he is secretly married to Olympic gold medal gymnast Alina Kabaeva. In East Germany, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned as senior assistant to the head of the department. In 1991, frustrated by the fall of the Soviet Union, he crossed over to politics becoming the deputy chairman of city government in St. Petersburg. He realized his future had to be within Russia’s first ever attempt at a fledgling democracy. From there, he move swiftly up the political ladder to Moscow and was appointed in 1999 as Director of the Federal Security Service and Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.
Within a year, Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed him as prime minister of Russia. Within a few months, Yeltsin stepped down and Putin became president never having been elected under the relatively new Russian pseudo-democracy. He was later overwhelmingly elected as president in 2000 and reelected in 2004, both by wide margins. Due to term limits prohibiting a third term for Putin, Dmitry Medvedev was elected president in 2008 and immediately appointed Putin as his Prime Minister. Many in Russia considered Medvedev to be a figure head with Putin still running the government. Putin ran again for president in 2012 for a newly legislated six year term. He won handily again in 2018 and will be president until at least 2024.
Western analysts no longer consider Russia a real democracy due to political corruption that gives Putin a land-slide victory every election. Elections have become more of an exercise of fear than of freedom. He is known to torture his opposition or even assassinate them. The recent nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter living in England was the latest in a long list of those who ran afoul of the Kremlin and suffered or died under suspicious circumstances.
Putin seems to be pursuing a foreign policy of slow, long-term of geographical expansion much like the old Soviet Union of his earlier years. In 2014, after several military incursions into Ukraine, Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms invaded the Ukraine’s territory of Crimea and claimed it for Russia. Since then, Ukraine has had many armed conflicts with Russian backed separatist forces in their country. Then in 2015, Russian forces moved into Syria to help prop up the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The Russian forces are also assisting the Iranian forces there.
So, here we have a man cultured in the dictatorial and empire-building Soviet Union who has risen to power through corrupt elections and thuggery, but earnestly wants to be legitimized and respected on the world scene. President Trump’s approach to try to form a friendly relationship with Putin is a very long shot. The President’s personal policy in dealing with our enemy heads of state seems to be to open more lines of communication with them while keeping them at arms length (ala Kim Jong- un). I’m for giving him a chance as long as he keeps the pressure on with continued serious sanctions and requirements of concessions. Putin must also feel the wrath of America if he encroaches on another country again. Being a buddy with a despot can backfire if not handled very carefully with eyes wide open. Go for it, Mr. President. But, America is watching closely.