Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was all over the international news this week, calling out the United States as international parasites, and trying to impress a group of Young Communists by climbing a rock wall without a harness and attempting to bend a frying pan with his bare hands.
He didn't get the job done on the frying pan, but it seems as though he probably could score some points with young Russians who were born years after the jackboots of communist oppression were lifted off of their parents' necks. And lest we forget, those jackboots were put there to a major degree by Putin himself, when he was a big noise with the Russian Secret Police.
Putin is known for getting headlines, but it appears there is far more to his grandstanding this time than meets the eye; certainly more than the national or international media cares about.
Putin likes the world to see him as a strongman, not one of these American and European unweaned international metrosexual pusillanimous purveyors of pap who think the United Nations is the answer to humanity's ills. Putin is a stand-up guy, who, whether you agree with him or not, is right in your face if you disagree with him or are in the way of his intentions.
Also, even though the Soviet Union with its brutal repression of lands under Russian control has been dead for two decades, Putin still is capable of backing up his words with actions. Not like it was 25 years ago, but still formidable in many regards.
I've been told that lately those intentions include a renewed presence in Hanoi - yes Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, where it was the Russians who provided most of the support for the communist regime during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese apparently still owe the Russians about $10 billion - which buys a lot more in Vietnam and Russia than it does here.
So the Russians are in Hanoi now, using diplomacy to get them where they really want to be - Cam Ranh Bay the massive deep water port that has extensive support facilities built and expanded by the United States in the 1960s.
After South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975, and after they crushed a rebellion of the South's rice farmers - the communists classify them as "peasants" - in 1977 when the farmers discovered what collectivization is really all about, and after they put hundreds of thousands of people into concentration camps where tens of thousands died, and after a million more fled on the South China Sea as boat people with about 300,000 never making it to shore, and after Cambodian communists went on murderous rampages that made the Vietnamese communists look like Boy Scouts, Russia and Vietnam signed a 25-year agreement that gave Russia extensive rights in the ports the US built.
The website Russian Defense Policy http://russiandefpolicy.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/return-to-cam-ranh/ states in a blog written last October that "According to Newsru.com and Vremya novostey, in 1979, Moscow and Hanoi signed a 25-year agreement by which the Soviet Pacific Fleet's 17th Squadron gained access to Cam Ranh. Vietnam allowed the Soviet Navy to base 10 surface ships, 8 submarines with a submarine support ship, and 6 auxiliaries at the port. The Soviets had POL storage, an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) and missile armaments base and technical service unit, a Naval Infantry sub-unit, and an air regiment at Cam Ranh.
The base was initially free, but Hanoi asked for $300 million in rent in 1998. In 2001, Moscow decided not to extend its agreement with Vietnam, and the last Russian elements departed Cam Ranh in mid-2002."
Now you probably are asking yourself what is prompting Russia to suddenly be taking an interest in Vietnam again. Actually, you should first be asking yourself why we, meaning the United States of America, also are taking a renewed interest in Vietnam.
For starters, there have been plenty of people in the US trying to renew relations with Vietnam - the communists that is - for decades, partly through trying to convince the American public to "get over" the war, all the while pushing the false claim that Vietnamese farmers, the Viet Cong, defeated the world's greatest military. But the American public is far more educated than the people who like to think of them as sheep are prepared to believe, and they know that the American military didn't lose a single major battle in Vietnam, the entire VC military was annihilated in 1968 and 1969, and that the northern communists were given a free hand to destroy the south by our own State Department and Congress.
So efforts to increase tourism and business opportunities have fallen short. I've been invited to go back several times in the last 10 years and really have no interest - until very recently.
AMERICAN LEADERS - OBAMA, KERRY
I don't want to visit the communist "Victory Museum" in Saigon where Jane Fonda and John Kerry are displayed prominently as Heroes of the Revolution. I also don't want to return to the scene of battles where we shellacked the communists only to read their self-serving propaganda on little plaques where they declare victories that they never enjoyed during the fighting.
RUSSIAN LEADER - VLADIMIR PUTION, ENOUGH SAID
That being said, we are expanding our diplomatic presence in Hanoi at the same time the Russians are, and we are once again locking horns with our old enemies - and depending on the point in history, our old friends - over the diplomatic tables. Why?
Republican President Richard Nixon went to visit China in 1972, leading to the abandonment of Vietnam by the US Congress in 1973, and the fall of the democratic south to the communists in 1975. He was credited with "opening" China to the west.
Ever since, subsequent Democratic administrations in the US have been giving more and more business and secret technology to China, and worrying the hell out of our Pacific allies including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, not to mention the Russians.
jimmy carter renegotiated our long-standing agreements with Taiwan to appease China, even though Taiwan is the last bastion of a democratic Chinese government. Likewise, Bill and Hillary Clinton helped the Chinese get their hands on our rocket guidance technology by reclassifying secret circuitry as video game technology, at the same time our 99-year lease for bases in the Philippines lapsed thus denying us access to the massive Subic Bay naval facility, Clark Air Force base and others.
The Clintons' largess led to generational jumps in Chinese rocketry and satellite capabilities, and since then they also have acquired our sonar technology and our stealth technology, including samples of the paint used on the Black Hawk stealth helicopter that went down in Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan when the Al Qaeda leader was killed by US Navy Seals.
A friend who studies the region told me about 20 years ago that major world powers were ignoring China's advancement in its naval forces, which was not considered a smart move. Since then Democratic administrations have gone out of their way to help the Chinese while simultaneously weakening the US.
The alignment of forces in the Pacific and Southeast Asia can be easily figured out if you take an objective look at what happened there after the democratic governments in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fell to the communists after they were abandoned by the US in 1975. In all three countries the communists went on a rampage of reprisals, slaughtering millions of civilians from the very young to the very old, while imprisoning and enslaving millions more.
As bad as things were in Laos and Vietnam, they were much worse in Cambodia where the communist Khmer Rouge forces went on a four-year orgy of murder, rape and torture. At least 2 million Cambodians, nearly half the country's population, and probably many more, were slaughtered.
In fact, the "excesses" of the Khmer Rouge which were hidden from public view by a compliant media, eventually became too widely known and were seen as an embarrassment to "moderate" communist regimes worldwide. The situation became so egregious that Vietnam's communists ultimately invaded Cambodia's communists in an effort to stop the slaughter before everyone was dead.
In that conflict the Vietnamese were backed by the Russians who had backed them during the war with the United States, but China jumped in and helped out the Cambodians. China even launched an invasion of North Vietnam's border provinces to draw some of the Vietnamese forces away from the war in Cambodia.
Ultimately the Vietnamese communists prevailed over the Cambodian communists and the slaughter and torture were brought back to "acceptable" levels. But in that region, the Vietnamese still hate the Chinese, and even though the Russians were seen as humorless cheapskates, they still are considered an ally.
To add to the chaos, the world now has a fawning US president who bows to Muslim terrorists, and kisses the asses of Chinese officials at every opportunity - remember he made the Dalai Lama use the trash entrance at the White House so as not to offend the Chinese who are systematically eliminating the people and culture of Tibet and Nepal.
Barack Obama has shown by his own actions and those of his bureaucrats, cabinet members and advisers that he believes the US should be relegated to a third-world trash heap for having the audacity to emerge as the leader of the planet, and he obviously is quite content to let China take over and dictate our future.
But, President Obama notwithstanding, the United States still has people who believe we can regain our world status with appropriate leadership in Congress and the White House, and even the hand-wringers realize that there has to be some kind of counterbalance to an unbridled Chinese presence in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Use of the deep-water ports in Cam Ranh Bay and DaNang - also housing US built facilities - is key to an economically viable deployment of naval forces in the area.
We know this and Vladimir Putin knows this. And as much as Putin hates the US, you can bet he hates the Chinese more.
That point wasn't expounded on to a great degree but this segment from the Russia Defense Policy website does give the briefest of hints to the thinking of at least some Russian military and political leaders:
"Izvestiya quotes independent military analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin:
"Theoretically, I welcome the reestablishment of a Navy base at Cam Ranh. For Russia, it is a very composite and most useful facility abroad. Without it, the operations of the Pacific Fleet are impeded. Also very little remains of the Pacific Fleet. This fact, however, doesn’t change the usefulness of the base at Cam Ranh. Such a step could, of course, create certain foreign policy difficulties for Russia. I suppose the U.S. and China will express dissatisfaction, but this will hardly have any real effect. As concerns Vietnam, it would pay to view it as our most important ally. Russia largely cast it aside after the collapse of the USSR. This was a gross mistake worth correcting."
It's worth recalling Khramchikhin may view Vietnam through a slightly Sinophobic prism."
That last line speaks volumes. Slightly Sinophobic. I bet.
So, we saw Mr. Putin take the international stage once again, but don't dismiss his presence as theatrics. He was making a point. Obama was probably out golfing or sneaking a smoke behind his wife's back, and I doubt he cares in the least what Putin is doing.
But there are plenty of Americans who are paying attention, and they should be.
Note to my Russian readers: Yes I know you read my blogs. And not just from Moscow either. Please pass this message on to Mr. Putin: If you want to do strongman tricks it pays to practice in private before you fail in public. There are techniques to all of these tricks.
Yes you have to be strong, but you also have to know the technique. Hint: heat the frying pan before you try to bend it. Not to the point of cooking your hands hot, but beyond room temp. Metal tends to bend more easily at higher temperatures.
Thursday, August 04, 2011