Uncle Vladimir

[This column appears at TOWNHALL.COM today – DRS]

Vladimir Putin is currently cashing in on an ill-advised promise made when two presidents thought no one was listening. You may recall President Obama’s whispered assurance, back in March of 2012, to then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

We are now witnessing that promised flexibility. America’s foreign policy is becoming a caricature—international affairs according to Gumby.

putin_gun_1512248cRussian President Vladimir Putin is a mix of Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria—an experienced strongman and savvy intelligence officer. He is hardly someone to be impressed by “flexibility.” Vladimir is all about power and the expansion of Russian influence on the world. He also enjoys it when America looks bad. It makes him smile—sort of.

A while back, I 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 anyone wondering if history repeats itself, or at least rhymes.

Dobbs gives a wonderfully detailed account of a weak president being bested by a determined Soviet dictator.  FDR gave territory and history away to a ruthless tyrant.  A war that started, in part, with a Soviet invasion of Poland, ended with Soviet dominance of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.

Now with Vladimir Putin inserting himself in a grand way into the current Syria crisis, not to mention joining the editorial staff of the New York Times, the voice of Yogi Berra can be heard crying in the wilderness: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

We must learn from history’s clock. It was dangerous and wrong to trust the Russians back then, and it is dangerous and wrong to trust them now.

In May of 1945, George Kennan was an American diplomat living and working in Moscow. Most Cold War buffs know very well of Kennan’s memo writing skills. His February 1946 “long telegram” is considered to be one of the seminal documents of the Cold War. In it, he described the Soviet Union’s “neurotic view of world affairs” and the “instinctive Russian sense of insecurity,” not to mention their, “secretiveness and conspiracy.”

But ten months earlier, Kennan wrote a memo that was largely overlooked at the time due to his relatively insignificant role as “nothing more than a highly competent clerk.” It is, in fact, that memo Mr. Obama and team should revisit right now. In language similar to what he would use in 1946, he bluntly acknowledged that Joseph Stalin knew just what buttons to push to get the United States to do his bidding. The Russians were already manipulating reality and events and had been all along. Kennan wrote: “They observe with gratification that in this way a great people can be led, like an ever-hopeful suitor, to perform one act of ingratiation after the other without ever reaching the goal which would satisfy its ardor and allay its generosity.”

Franklin Roosevelt gave the store away to Mr. Stalin and company at Yalta. His inexperienced successor, Mr. Truman, didn’t do much better at Potsdam. But of course, they were dealing with a Soviet dictator and we are dealing with Vladimir Putin. Putin is nothing like Stalin, right?

Yalta_summit_1945_with_Churchill,_Roosevelt,_StalinActually, Mr. Putin has more in common with the pock-faced “man of steel”—referred to at times by Roosevelt and later Truman as “Uncle Joe”—than most people care to notice. He is driven by power and is one dangerous dude. The decision to portray him in sinister terms in my novel, Camelot’s Cousin, was not just a fictional tool, but rooted in scary reality. There are good guys and bad guys in the world. And then there are dumb guys who can’t tell the difference. They may be the most dangerous of all.

As President Obama looks for solutions in Syria and the Middle East by dancing with Vladimir Putin, he is looking for love in all the wrong places.

Sixty-eight years ago, it took a glorified clerk and a recently-booted-out-of-office politician to remind the world that Russia could not be trusted. Kennan wrote his telegrams. And Winston Churchill gave a speech about “the sinews of peace” and that ominous “Iron Curtain.”

In many ways, the key to the present crisis and future success is a good long look at the past.

Putin Writing For The New York Times–Stranger Than Fiction?

vladimir-putinNow that Vladimir Putin has apparently joined the editorial staff of the New York Times :-), I am wondering how long it will be politically acceptable to make him and/or the Russians the “bad guys” in fiction?

Those of you who have read my novel, CAMELOT’S COUSIN, know that Mr. Putin is a player in the story. How did I connect him to the Kennedy Assassination, of all things? Well, you’ll have to read the book. 

It now has more that 170 customer reviews at Amazon, with an average rating of 4.6 stars out of a possible 5. I am so grateful to the thousands of readers who have enjoyed the story. If you haven’t read it, grab a copy today, either in e-book or paperback format.

Here are a few of the customer comments about CAMELOT’S COUSIN.  — Best Regards, — DRS

What some readers are saying (from Amazon Customer Reviews):

“The author has taken true historical facts of the Cold War era and woven a most wonderful tale which is difficult to put down. Even touching upon and offering a believable reason for the assassination of President John F Kennedy, the book is very readable for someone like me who has lived through the post war sabre rattling between the USSR and the USA. A book to be enjoyed and one that makes for much conjecture as to what really happened.” – Barrie M

Walk on a roof edge“Love the book. Gives you a new possible view of the Kennedy assassination . It is fictional but very believable story.”- Mary Faust

“I was interested to read this because I used to work for an attorney in Memphis, now deceased, that was a member of the OSS and was stationed in London during WWII. He had spoken to me of Kim Philby and he had several books in his library about him so the subject was of great interest to me. I really enjoyed the writing style of Mr. Stokes and the story moved along nicely. As a fan of historical fiction I recommend this book to any one who is interested in the subject.” – Florence Izzi

“I tried this book on for size because I enjoy reading espionage stories and this one sounded interesting. I was not at all familiar with the author but I am a huge fan now. This is a terrific book! Stokes writes in a style that flows and informs as well as entertains. I found the Kennedy tie in to not only pique my interest but hold it firmly tight. This is one of those keep me on the edge of my seat–I hate to put it down for fear I’ll miss something books. I will most definitely turn to other books by Mr. Stokes. Check this out my friends–you’ll be glad you did” – Daniel

I ordered this e-book because it was cheap. Boy, was I in for a big surprise. The storyline is fast-paced and really, really believable. My acid test for a book is whether it keeps me reading at bedtime. This one passed with flying colors. My only disappointment is that there’s no sequel.- Longtime Sailor  [Note to Longtime Sailor – I am working on sequel now, stay tuned! — DRS]

“This book is a wild ride through history and into the present, pulling in the famous Cambridge spy ring and its star defector Kim Philby, Putin’s Russia, and with side trips into JFK’s Oval Office. The book is fiction, but is presented in such a way that builds a case for believability as each piece of information gathered is placed into the growing puzzle. It’s well-crafted and digs deeply into the old late 20th century world of spying and tradecraft, enough to warm the heart of most spy thriller veterans. Most of the book is presented at a pretty fast clip, but slows down near the end as both the hero and the reader need time to wind things down to a realistic and satisfying conclusion. Just because the Cold War is over, it isn’t necessarily the end of exciting, modern spy novels. This book proves it by using the past as a basis for adventure and excitement in the present. Recommended.” – Nyssa

“In recent moths I have read many books associated with JFK and his assassination. This one was an up-all-nighter..I recommend it for a new POV for the conspiracy theories around this event..”- Mary K. Hunt

As someone who was beginning a career in counterintelligence in 1963 I found this book to be very interesting and informative with great historical insights. Anyone interested in the Cold War period, espionage and spies will find this a great read. – Harry J.

Read these and the rest of the 171 customer reviews HERE.