Putin, Russia, Yalta, and Whispered Assurances

It hasn’t taken long for the Russians to noise it about that they are ready to cash in on an ill-advised promise made when two presidents thought no one was listening. You may recall President Obama’s whispered assurance to then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Of course, there is a new—yet ever old—Russian president these days. Vladimir Putin is back. He’s a mix of Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria. Putin is an experienced strongman and intelligence officer. Hardly someone to be impressed by flexibility. I just read Michael Dobbs account of what happened when the “Big Three”—Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin—met at Yalta to carve up what was left of Europe. The book is called, Six Months in 1945: From World War to Cold War. I heartily recommend it to you.

Dobbs gives a wonderfully detailed account of what happened when a weak and ineffectual president—blinded by unrealistic optimism (and in ill-heath) and determined to approach the Soviet dictator with his own brand of flexibility—gave history away to a ruthless tyrant.

In newspapers across America today, there are stories coming out of Russia with headlines such is this one in the Miami Herald: Russian Hopes for U.S. Flexibility on Missile Shield. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said this a day after the U.S. election: “We hope that President Obama after his re-election will be more flexible on the issue of taking into the account the opinions of Russia and others regarding a future configuration of NATO’s missile defense.”

I went back and reviewed two of my past articles—one earlier this year, the other from 2009—and they both read sadly prophetic:

Russia Rejects Our Reset Button in Favor of Theirs
(October 18, 2009)
The President Whisperer (March 30, 2012)