Vladimir Putin personally ordered an interference campaign to disrupt the 2016 U.S. elections. History will judge him harshly.
It wasn’t always like this. Not always. For a couple of years towards the end of the Second World War. The US and Russia were partners against the Third Reich. In the early 1940’s, as the world raged with war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin made a pact to defeat Adolf Hitler.
Roosevelt’s affection for Stalin was so heartfelt he dubbed the Russian leader, “Uncle Joe”. Roosevelt penned a letter to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in March, 1942. ‘I think I can personally handle Stalin better than your Foreign Office or my State Department,’ boasted FDR. “Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better,” Roosevelt wrote.
The partnership briefly flourished and Hitler was defeated after a post-war alliance was negotiated involving Britain, the U.S. and the Soviets at Yalta. Things quickly changed after the war. A month before Roosevelt’s death in 1945, the president expressed his growing weariness of “Uncle Joe”. “We can’t do business with Stalin,” Roosevelt said. “He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.” After Roosevelt’s death, Harry Truman quickly distanced himself from the Russian tyrant.
To hear director Oliver Stone tell it, the US, not Stalin, reneged on a plan to set up 5 nation post-war alliance to check the rise of another tyrant like Hitler. Keep in mind, Stone is now so thoroughly soaked in Kremlin Kool-aid, he could serve as Putin’s chief propagandist. On Charlie Rose recently, Stone gave us a window into Putin’s warped view of history.
“America should — was very grate — should have been even more grateful but because Mr. Roosevelt died. Mr. Truman didn’t have the same attitude toward the Soviets as Roosevelt did. Roosevelt saw a grand alliance between the Soviet Union, Britain, China, and the United States. That grand alliance never materialized,” says the Putin Interviews director.
Putin – through Stone – seems to be re-litigating history while at the same time, whitewashing Josef Stalin’s bloody regime, which oversaw the imprisonment and death of millions of opponents. Roosevelt and Stalin’s partnership was borne out of expediency and a shared interest in defeating Hitler even though the president wrongly believed that he could turn Stalin into a “Christian gentleman”. In reality, US values and strategic interests could never really coalesce with the Soviet’s, considering Stalin’s iron grip.
Fast forward 77 years and another Russian tyrant, Vladimir Putin, has a grand vision of building a US-Russia alliance which could “make the world great again – together”, as billboards lining Russian highways want us to believe. What made the Roosevelt-Stalin bromance succeed, and will doom this one to failure, was their shared enemy: Hitler’s Third Reich.
Putin is well aware he needs the same type of motivating factor to build an alliance with the US.
Enter ISIS. I’ve written before that ISIS was, and likely still is, funded and armed by the Kremlin. It should surprise no-one that big countries fund insurgencies in other countries as proxies. The United States has done it, and so does Russia. For Russia, it’s Bashar al-Assad, ISIS and Hezbollah. Absent another foe, Putin now wants to help the United States defeat a monster of his own making. This isn’t just theory, it’s right out Putin’s playbook.
Gen. Valery Gerasimov is the architect of what’s dubbed “Gerasimov’s Doctrine” which is often cited as the underpinning of Russia’s asymmetrical war against the US. Put simply, it involves creating a pretext for military action, through cyber warfare, proxy insurgency and propaganda. By supporting ISIS, Putin believes he’s created the perfect nemesis for a US-Russia alliance to defeat. ‘The enemy of your enemy is your friend’, as it were.
Putin’s strategy to stoke ISIS failed with the Obama administration, so he decided to install a president with whom he could work. The Washington Post now reports, Putin personally ordered a cyber and influence attack to hack our democracy. The effort may have elected a puppet president, but the strategy is doomed to failure. Putin is a good tactician to be sure, but like Stalin before him, he lacks a basic understanding of the most important factor of a successful partnership: shared values.
If Vladimir Putin wants Russia to be a part of the civilized world of nations, he needs to stop supporting tyrants like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, pull out of the Ukraine and Crimea and stop inciting global tension and terrorism. If Russia is to be considered a trusted partner, she needs to look inward, modernize a struggling economy (per capita GDP has plummeted 41% from US$15,543 in 2013 to $9,057 a year in 2015) and return legitimate democracy to her people.
The world stands on the threshold of incredible promise, innovation which will cure humanity’s greatest ills, from cancer to climate change, global hunger to poverty, terrorism to warmongering. Vladimir Putin is a singular figure standing in the way of human progress at a time of vital need. He should step aside. If he doesn’t, he’ll go down as one of history’s most reviled leaders.