Russians have grown tired of their Prime Minister. Despite widespread election fraud, Vladimir Putin's United Russia party struggled to get 50 percent support in recent parliamentary elections.
Yet, Putin told supporters, "we can ensure the stable development of the country with this result."
He's not going away. Neither is the growing Russian threat.
Twenty four years ago this month, President Ronald Reagan signed his name next to Mikhail Gorbachev's and both eliminated intermediate nuclear and conventional missiles. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was a landmark agreement, one that satisfied Reagan's "Zero Option."
Vladimir Putin is no Mikhail Gorbachev.
Perhaps it's why Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is blocking President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Russia.
Kirk told the Associated Press that he wants "written assurances that the United States will not provide Russia with any currently classified information on the missile defense system." Kirk is especially concerned with Russia's "record of espionage and cooperation and dialogue with Iran."
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ed Rowny knows a thing or two about Russian deception. As chief arms control adviser and negotiator for President Ronald Reagan, Rowny's memories of the Geneva and Reykjavik summits are still vivid.
It was "usually the case," Rowny recalled as he sipped a cup of coffee at his D.C. retirement home, "the secretive Soviets would never come prepared to negotiate. Rather, they would just repeat the party-line." To the likes of Andrei Gromyko or Leonid Brezhnev, "facts were meaningless."
Even today, Rowny can still feel the cold-as-ice Soviets. He remembered a time when it was his turn to "warm things up."
After a long morning of "go-nowhere negotiations," Rowny hired a boat on Lake Geneva for the American and Soviet delegations. At first, the boat was split down the middle with Americans sitting on one side and Russians, not budging, sitting on the other.
Rowny pulled out his harmonica and began playing a Russian nursery rhyme, which the Soviets began to hum to. They then sang to his rendition of "Moon over Moscow." Not before long, Rowny had the Russians forming a conga-line to the tune of "We are the Communists."
"I was too diplomatic to play a tune from Dr. Zhivago," Rowny said of a film, based on a Russian novel, which exposed the brutality of Soviet tyranny.
In a speech to Moscow State University students in 1988, Ronald Reagan wasn't so cautious. "One of the most eloquent passages on human freedom," Reagan said, "comes, not from the literature of America, but from this country." After quoting from Dr. Zhivago, Reagan went further: "freedom is more even than this. Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. ... It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people."
For Rowny, it seemed, "at that very moment that the Cold War had been won."
General Rowny met Reagan for the last time at his home in Bel Air. After exchanging pleasantries and even some fun with a harmonica, Rowny was preparing to leave, but Reagan noticed the General wasn't all smiles.
"Mr. President," Rowny sighed, "usually every time we're together, you tell a joke. You didn't this time."
Reagan lit up. "Don't leave just yet." The joke, as Rowny struggled to remember exactly, went something like this:
A recently single young woman grew tired of her ex-boyfriend making unannounced visits to her home. She began to look for a guard dog and decided on a small Shih Tzu. Though, this was not your ordinary Shih Tzu. This one was trained to attack on command. The next time the ex-boyfriend showed up the young woman shouted: "Leave or I'll sick my dog on you!"
"A guard dog?"
"A Shih Tzu!"
"Shih Tzu, my ass!" The dog took off after him and, needless to say, the young woman never saw her ex-boyfriend again.
Some twenty-four years after Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan met in Washington, it seems the United States needs a Shih Tzu of its own.
As recently as 2007, President Putin threatened to withdraw from the INF Treaty. Last month, he angrily warned the West to butt out of Russia's elections. Now, Russia may be one step closer to more of our defense secrets.
Reagan and Rowny didn't stand up to the Soviets in Reykjavík for nothing. Sick 'em, Kirk Tzu.
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