If you came of age during the 1950s you should feel pretty angry with the current relationship between America and its cold war enemies, Russia and China. In 1917 the Russian Empire was overthrown by Bolshevik communists and the empire became the Soviet Union. From its inception, America and other nations have viewed communism as a synonym for totalitarianism and a direct threat to freedom and Western-style democracy.
Even though we allied with Russia during WWII we still viewed them with many grains of suspicion. When the war ended the Soviets didn’t retreat to their pre-war borders. They stayed and took control of those countries they had pushed the Nazis from. The Soviet sphere of influence grew and the goal was to grow more. This expansionism prompted Winston Churchill to warn of an “iron curtain” descending upon Europe, one side free and the other imprisoned.
Soviet expansionism was viewed as a major threat and it had to be somehow countered. In response, the Western democracies engaged in the foreign policy of containment. Soviet aggression would be countered by encircling Russia and China with overwhelming military force. America spent trillions on weapons development and building military bases any place necessary to resist communism’s spread. We also helped form military and economic alliances to help protect those nations most threatened by Soviet and Chinese aggression. The main treaty was NATO and for sixty-eight years NATO has worked to contain the spread of despots and dictatorships in Europe. It has seen an impressive spread of democracy in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet states.
The first test of our containment policy was the invasion of South Korea by communist North Korea in 1950. The US and its allies responded and before a truce was signed three-years later, nearly 37,000 American service persons were dead. What was to be called the Cold War had turned very hot.
The Cold War heated up again with communist North Vietnam’s invasion of South Vietnam in 1959. America came to the support of the South and before we exited South East Asia in 1975 we had lost 58,000 lives with over 150,000 wounded. Add another 1,600 as missing in Action.
Over the decades the US has spent trillions resisting or containing despotism and autocratic rule. In 1962 our opposition to Soviet expansion brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust. America woke one morning to learn that the Russians had installed mid-range nuclear missiles just 90-miles from our shore, in Cuba. For thirteen days in October of 1962, the US wrangled over what to do with this nuclear threat. While the world’s rulers negotiated the military forces of America and the Soviet Union lined up nose to nose around the world. Without Russia’s blink, the world could have melted in a radioactive maelstrom.
Our resistance to Russian aggression has cost us dearly in blood and treasure and has overwhelmingly been supported by the American people. We saw our sacrifices justified when in December of 1991 the Soviet Union crumbled and became what today we know as the Russian Federation. It is no longer a communist nation but under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, it remains a despotic dictatorship and one that openly seeks expansion.
At the very time, Putin’s Russia is pressing to dominate the Ukraine and Syria and the nations nearest it are experiencing an increased sense of threat, the radial policies of Donald Trump appear to be weakening the very things that have kept the Russians in check. Trump has openly attacked NATO, the World Court, and the European Union. He has attacked and insulted most of our long-time and closest allies and he has destroyed the idea that America can be relied upon. For reasons yet unknown he seems to turn a blind eye to all that Putin desires and has most recently ceded Syria and our allies, the Kurds, to the whims of Putin’s fancy.
So, for decades the United States and its many allies have spared no effort or cost in resisting the expansion of totalitarian dictatorship in the world to only have our child-like, inexperienced, and ill-educated leader turn his back to history and undo all the sacrifices that have been made. Like I said in the title, what we fought for and achieved for the last seventy-years has all been in vain.