East/West redux

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Really? Well, they’re up to something, thanks to Vlad Putin, the ex Soviet era KGB agent turned President. The Russian Federation–once known as the Soviet Union–is making BIG news again. No, nothing to do with Sochi. Those games are over, now a new game of brinksmanship is on, and it’s all about Ukraine. Akin to the “Arab Spring” from a few years back when Tunisia, Egypt and Libya underwent a citizens revolt on perceived governmental corruptions, Ukrainian citizens gathered in their capital of Kiev and stood defiant in the face of its government’s intransigence (and bullets) to force change. The capital of Kiev was ground zero for the world to watch the relentless protestors. Social media and our age of instant coverage/information/evidence factored into the positive outcome for the dissenting voices. (One wonders if the American Revolution would have been over in a few days if iPhones and Twitter feeds were available). But back to Russia and Ukraine. The media (social and network) watched, and in less than a month, the protestors got the Prime Minister to flee. In the wake of this development, though, comes the geographic complications of Ukraine’s “we the people” moment. Apparently, the east of Ukraine that borders Russia wasn’t completely on board with the revolt. Harkening back to the Cold War era, when the USSR was Ukraine’s proxy modus operandi, some folks in the East still prefer Moscow over Kiev calling the shots. To what extent such pro-Moscow Ukrainians actually exist in number, such is the excuse Putin is asserting that motivated him to send troops into Crimea in southern Ukraine. Now, suddenly it has become an East/West issue within Ukraine itself (supposedly), as well as an East/West issue between Russia and its one-time Cold War nemesis, the USA.

Now, for we Baby Boomers, it’s deja vu all over again.

This Boomer is rather, let’s say, enjoying–or at the least, appreciating, the irony. Boomers grew up in the “duck and cover” era of Cold War paranoia. Air raid drills. Bomb shelters. So many nukes. Just a matter of time. Assured Mutual Destruction. Then, in short order by 1991 the Soviet Union collapses under the dead weight of its ersatz, crypto Communist ideology and the Cold War is kaput. But now, like the ghost of geo-politics past, we have Moscow sending troops across Ukraine’s border into the Crimea region and tensions are rising. Not exactly the Cuban Missile Crisis and its “who’ll blink first?” showdown between Washington and Moscow tempting nuclear WWIII, but hey, the situation is fluid and tensions are rising. I expect nothing too apocalyptic will come of this development, but for the time being it’s bringing back those memories when our enemy was clearly identifiable, and substantial enough in nuclear weaponry and uniformed and well-trained soldiers that it at least appeared to be a threat to take seriously, and everything else seemed small potatoes.

I’m weary of breathless reporting on Kim Jong Un, the diabolic doofus of the creepiest country on earth, North Korea (and apparent pal of Dennis Rodman) who is a threat only to his own people. C’mon. North Korea, Iran, Syria, even teenie-weenie Cuba and the Castro clan are portrayed as 21st Century boogeymen, but all of those countries combined amount to a flea on the back of the USA’s 800 lb gorilla in the you want a piece of me? posturing for provocation gamesmanship. It’s not lost on any of the old or newer members of club de nuke that the U.S. is the only country to ever use the atomic bomb in anger–twice! And the US of A has more shiny, sophisticated new war toys than any other country by leaps and bounds. Now, it’s old Cold War sparring partner, it’s only serious threat from back in the day, is making noise. Sure, modern Russia isn’t the potential force it once was during its politburo zenith, but it still has nuclear missiles in significant numbers. Nukes, plus Putin’s illogical aggressiveness as a response to what happened in Kiev make for compelling speculation. Vlad’s seemingly playing “chicken” with the West when it come to Kiev. Apparently, history may have taken the Cold War hood away from Putin, but it can’t take that hood out of Putin. And he’s calling the shots.

Stay tuned. The old boogeyman from the Moscow is back, in a 21st Century remake. Maybe it’s an oligarchy now, not a Marx/Lenin/Stalin/Khrushchev inspired big commie bear daring defiance from its “Union” members, but it’s good old Mother Russia and that bear has come out of hibernation and is acting a bit like a bully.   And if push comes to shove, and East/West tempers flare, borders are breached, shots are fired or launch codes are invoked, I’ll roll myself a joint, pour a few fingers of rye and wait for the possible atomic denouement and finally understand all those by-gone years of paranoia, proxy wars, and propaganda actually wasn’t all bluster and bullshit after all.

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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