Watching how President Barack Obama deals with Vladimir Putin invading Crimea and threatening Ukraine fills me with a chilling sensation of déjà vu.
Do not take me wrong. I respect the president of the United States, and I want to help him. I grew up with the picture of the U.S. president on the wall of our house in Bucharest. My father, who spent most of his life working for the representative of General Motors in Romania, loved America, but he never set foot in this country. For him, America was just the place of his dreams, thousands of miles away. The point is, America’s president was its tangible symbol. And so it is for me. I am proud that the United States had become mature enough to elect a black president, and ideally the first black American president should have a place of honor in our country’s history of foreign policy. But that is not what we are witnessing, unfortunately.
In my experience, our Democratic Party has a long tradition of appeasing tyrants. Allow me to take you back 35 years. On April 12, 1978, President Jimmy Carter hailed Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu as a “great national and international leader.” At that time I was standing next to Ceausescu in the White House, and I could hardly believe my ears.
Ceausescu despised appeasers. While driving away from that official ceremony at the White House, he took a bottle of alcohol and splashed it all over his face, after having been affectionately kissed by President Carter in the Oval Office. “Peanut-head,” Ceausescu whispered in my ear.
Three months later – having finally acted on my growing conflict with communism – I was granted political asylum in the United States, and I informed President Carter that he had been praising the wrong man. I explained to him that Ceausescu was, in fact, an international terrorist and arms smuggler who was also selling off Romanian Jews and Germans for Western currency.
The result? Carter alleged that the KGB had staged my defection in order to destroy his excellent relations with Ceausescu, and he ordered that I be deported back to Romania! I had a heart attack. If Ceausescu had ever gotten me back in his clutches, he would have torn me limb from limb, inch by inch, every day for years on end.
Fortunately, saner minds prevailed. Nevertheless, a book by Roger Kirk, who was U.S. ambassador to Romania when I defected, provides irrefutable testimony that President Carter danced to Ceausescu’s music. It seems that in September 1978, President Carter sent a ranking counselor, Matthew Nimetz, to Bucharest to apologize for the U.S. having granted me political asylum. Nimetz conveyed to the tyrant that the Carter administration would “do our utmost to assure that publicity on the Pacepa case is avoided completely, or kept at a bare minimum.” Ambassador Kirk attended that meeting.
As a result of President Carter’s appeasement policy, Ceausescu stayed in power 11 more years. In December 1989, 1,104 Romanians paid with their lives and 3,352 were injured after the tyrant ordered his armed and security forces to open fire against people who wanted Ceausescu out.
On the memorable day of July 19, 1979, President Carter did it again. He affectionately kissed Leonid Brezhnev on both cheeks during their first encounter in Vienna. But Brezhnev also despised appeasers. Five months after the infamous Carter-Brezhnev kiss, a KGB terrorist squad assassinated Hafizullah Amin, the American-educated prime minister of Afghanistan, and replaced him with a Soviet puppet. Then the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
President Carter feebly protested by boycotting the Olympic Games in Moscow. That compromise gave rise to the Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden’s anti-American terrorism. The price we paid for this appeasement: 3,000 Americans killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and close to 1,800 killed so far in our war in Afghanistan.
In 2004 the Kremlin’s puppet-running Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma, a former Politburo member, completed two terms in office and was prohibited by law from running again. Putin’s KGB, however, poisoned the first pro-Western Ukrainian running for president, Viktor Yushchenko. He was badly disfigured, but escaped alive, and his party won both the presidential and parliamentary elections. The KGB (renamed FSB), which became the main enemy of the democratic Ukraine, was nevertheless able to organize a show-trial against the country’s pro-Western prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed.
Last week, Russian troops invaded the Crimea, which is part of the independent Ukrainian country. On March 1, the U.S. national security team met at the White House to discuss the Russian aggression on Ukraine. A White House official emailed some reporters that President Obama did not attend.
The way forward
Thirty-five years ago I paid with two death sentences from my native Romania for helping that country to free itself from the claws of a tyrant, and now I will do everything in my power to help restore American leadership and exceptionalism. I am a registered Republican, but I learned the hard way that unity in time of war is what made America the leader of the world. During World War II, 405,399 Americans died to defeat Nazism, the Holocaust and the then-maniacal empire of Japan. But this country of immigrants remained sturdily united. At the end of WWII, the same united America rebuilt its vanquished enemies. It took seven years to turn Germany, Italy and Japan into democracies, but that effort made the U.S. the uncontested leader of the world.
Americans say if you really want to know someone, walk a mile in his moccasins. I unfortunately walked in Putin’s shoes over many miles and for many years, and I am convinced that if he has his way, he will start a new Cold War that could be not only cold, but bloody as well.
In 2005 Putin called the dismantling of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” In July 2007, he predicted a new Cold War against the West. “War has started,” Putin announced on Aug. 8, 2008, just minutes after President George W. Bush and other world leaders, who had gathered in Beijing to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, were surprised to learn that Russian tanks had rolled across the Russian border into Georgia.
This time around, the Soviet symbols of hammer and sickle were prominently featured at the 2014 Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi, during a show highlighting the country’s history. It featured performers dressed in red and white, flying airplanes and driving cars, while the hammer and sickle hovered over the scene.
Only days after the closing of the Sochi Olympics, Russia invaded the Crimea, which lies within the borders of Ukraine. Ukraine is by far the most important part of the former Soviet Union that Putin needs to seize in order to recreate the Soviet Union and build a 21st century Russian empire. Historically, the first Russian state, called “Rus,” was founded in 880 around what is now Kiev. Today’s Ukraine is important as a bountiful breadbasket – the third-largest grain producer in the world – and it has a well-developed manufacturing sector, particularly in the aerospace field. Last but not least, Ukraine hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement.
The just-announced defection to the Russians of Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky, the new head of the Ukrainian navy, and his order to the Ukrainian naval forces to disregard orders from the “self-proclaimed” authorities in Kiev, proves that Putin prepared his attack on Ukraine long ago.
Why are we so surprised and unprepared to counteract this?
The U.S. administration has avoided taking any firm position, stating only that “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” Commentator Charles Krauthammer found the weakness of this statement “staggering,” because it actually means that we’re not really going to do anything, and we’re telling the world that we’re not going to do anything. I believe the U.S. response is just a continuation of our Democratic Party’s and Foggy Bottom’s long tradition of appeasing tyrants.
In 2009, after the Democratic Party won the national elections, our new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, decided to erase the annoying past in our relations with Russia and to establish a new policy called “Reset” (erroneously translated by our State Department as “Peregruzka,” which means “overcharged”). There are quite a few meanings for “reset” in dictionaries, but all tend to signify restore – except in Scotland, where “reset” is the legal term for knowingly and dishonestly receiving stolen goods. The Kremlin obliged, and it restored a Soviet-style foreign policy in Russia.
Our media are now asking for economic sanctions on Russia. In my experience, economic sanctions have never worked. But the TRUTH has worked. The U.S. ultimately won the Cold War because of President Truman’s “Campaign of Truth,” defined in the NSC 68/1950 report of the National Security Council as “a struggle, above all else, for the minds of men.” Truman argued that the propaganda used by the “forces of imperialistic communism” could be overcome only by the “plain, simple, unvarnished truth.” The Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberation (soon to become Radio Liberty) became part of Truman’s containment offensive.
If people still wonder how the United States won the Cold War without firing a shot, here is one explanation from Romania’s second post-communist president, Emil Constantinescu:
Radio Free Europe has been a lot more important than the armies and the most sophisticated missiles. The “missiles” that destroyed Communism were launched from Radio Free Europe, and this was Washington’s most important investment during the Cold War. I don’t know whether the Americans themselves realize this now, seven years after the fall of Communism, but we understand it perfectly well.
Our country is facing a new Cold War. Let’s start a new campaign of truth.
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