The Khrushchev Moment We Were Promised

I’m sure someone can do this much better than I can, as I try to fit stray thoughts around real-live work. It’s just that, this comparison is compelling to me. I had to vent a few thoughts.

October 15, 1962 – 47 years ago this week – our U-2 reconnaissance plane snapped shots of Soviet nuclear missile apparatus being assembled in Cuba. In the weeks that followed, a stand-off between our President, who had been previously considered by the Soviets as weak (or, at least, bluffing), and a Premier looking to advance the Soviet Union in the the race for international superiority.

Scroll forward to October 14, 2009.

In an interview published today in Izvestia, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Kremlin’s security council, said the new doctrine offers “different options to allow the use of nuclear weapons, depending on a certain situation and intentions of a would-be enemy. In critical national security situations, one should also not exclude a preventive nuclear strike against the aggressor.”

Can there be any doubt that there is purpose behind announcing a work-in-progress in a newspaper interview like this, while our Secretary of State is prancing around Russia, and while the United States and Russia are renegotiating an extension of the expiring START? Coincidence? Is this not the 2009 equivalent of parking a small flock of nuclear missiles off the coast of Florida? Is there any functional difference between a public Russian announcement of a doctrine of preemptive nuclear response in 2009 and active nuclear advancement in 1962?

Maybe. But in October 2009, it’s hard to believe in coincidences.

What does seem clear is that this is the test – or, one of them – that our embarrassing uncle, Joe Biden (think: Uncle Leo), told us we would see. This is the foot in the door that Russia has sought for the last 20 years, following an era where it was resigned to the position of also-ran. This is the same probing and aggressive spirit that led us to a showdown off the shores of Cuba. Barack didn’t even have to spend the travel money that JFK did in 1961 when he emboldened Khrushchev in Vienna. With one swift presidential announcement, the United States hastened its retreat from Eastern Europe (dude obviously never played Risk) and the message for Russia was clear: now is the time to assert. The U.S economy is weakened, the new administration embraces international parity, and U.S. and Russian negotiators are, no doubt, engaged in START negotiations. This was clearly the opportunity, and it was handed over with glee.

So, these are Barack’s Thirteen Days.   As promised. Man, that “reset button” thingy is like some sort of weird on-switch for Rube Goldberg diplomacy.