It seems there is a revival from the 50’s! Bobby stockings? No. Drive In’s and soda fountains? Nah. Elvis? Maybe on some oldie stations.
No, what I’m talking about is the Red Scare! We also had the Yellow Peril back then. Mao Tse-tung was the leader of the Communist party in China until he died in 1979 and was its Chairman during the 50’s. He was a bad guy until Richard Nixon opened up normal relations with the People’s Republic of China starting in 1972. So they’re OK today.
But the Reds! The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics! We had Stalin, Malenkov, and Khrushchev during the 50’s. Then Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachev. That was a time of duck and cover. Students were taught to immediately get under their desks if the warning sirens went off. Civil defense shelters were built in every city equipped with two way radios and food and water. Khrushchev banged his shoe on a table and shouted, “We will bury you!” Then we had the Cuban Missile crisis. We have never, before or since, been in as dangerous a confrontation with the Soviets.
President Kennedy negotiated with Khrushchev. Together they came to a satisfactory end to the Cuban Missile crisis. What could have been a nuclear war was averted. Yet the arms race was on. Both sides feared the other. Each thought that the other would strike first if they thought they had the nuclear advantage. More and more people realized that this was insane. An acronym appeared, MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction. If the two sides were equally matched, if it could be certain that any nuclear war would result in both sides obliterating each other, then peace would be assured. This was truly mad.
And then came several treaties. The Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty. The SALT treaties. Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. The START I treaty. Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Then came the agreement between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan to dismantle the Soviet Union. A constitution was created for the newly created Russian Federation. They were reforming themselves to be more like a European Parliamentary government. They have been trying to achieve that goal until recently. Boris Yeltsin was their first president.
The nuclear arms negotiations didn’t stop there. Start II came under George HW Bush. Bill Clinton and Yeltsin negotiated a START III treaty. This, sadly, was never implemented. George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin negotiated the SORT treaty. Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty. A New START treaty was negotiated between Obama and Medvedev. There were also other, non-strategic treaties and agreements to destroy stockpiles of weapons grade plutonium. During the Cold War a tremendous amount of diplomacy and negotiations occurred between the two superpowers. Nuclear arms were reduced by over 90% between the 70’s and the year 2000. Not to forget numerous cease fire and peace agreements concerning conflicts in other countries.
So it was possible to negotiate with the likes of Stalin, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev. All leaders of the Communist Soviet Union. The country of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. We even negotiated with the new Russian Federation under Yeltsin, Putin, and Medvedev. Communication, cooperation, and mutually beneficial compromise are possible. During that whole period the American and Russian people held no animosity to each other. We both wanted peace and we wanted our governments to make it happen. Some of us remembered WWII and that we had been allies with the Soviets. What had happened? Trotsky had wanted world communism, but Stalin was content to stay in his own communist paradise. He never wanted to enter the western hemisphere. We know that now, but not then.
So, with all this détente, reduction treaties, and agreements between both the old Soviet Union and the new Russian Federation, why are we back to the 50’s? Why a new Cold War? Or worse. More and more people are talking about a winnable nuclear war. And that’s not from the Khrushchev’s on the other side. And no more talk about duck and cover or civilian shelters. Though Russia has recently completed fallout shelters in Moscow that will hold all of the residents of the city. What are they afraid of?
Shouldn’t we be continuing to make agreements to reduce weapons and lessen the chance of nuclear exchange, either by war or by accident? Now we are in a worse condition with Russia than we had been under the Soviets. How did that happen? Some people believe that the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wants to bring back the Soviet Union. Maybe he should. At least we were willing to talk to them!
Where’s MAD? Where are the leaders who want to reduce tensions and not escalate them? Where is the peace party calling for more talks? Every American leader who has negotiated with the Soviets has been accused of being soft on Communism or a stooge of the Kremlin. Roosevelt. Kennedy. Nixon. Reagan. Obama. But in every case their willingness to stop sabre rattling and start treaty talking resulted in something that was in the best interests of both sides. Every single time. The news media reported on it hopefully. Talks are looking good. An agreement between the Soviets and the United States is possible. Both sides are looking forward to a reduction of tensions and increased cooperation. This was a good thing. This is a good thing.
But now. Are we mad?