I read with interest your recent letter in the New York Times to the American people (http://news.sky.com/story/1140518/syria-crisis-vladimir-putins-letter-to-america).
I am not a politician or government employee. Nor am I, in spite of the nom de guerre, in any sense a Commander; I am simply a patriotic American citizen who happens to enjoy history.
You are fortunate to be the leader of a nation that has been blessed by nature with beauty, rich natural resources and a spiritually re-awakened people. The Russian people are a thoughtful soulful people that have given to the world creative giants such as Tolstoy, Gogol and Nabokov. You preside over an educated and literate population that longs to advance their position in the world.
|Commander K. with Canon|
During the remaining years of the Napleonic era (to Waterloo in 1815) Russia would change sides two more times. In 1807, after the French victor at the battle of Friedland, Emperor Napoleon I sought a "reset" with Russia. He met Tsar Alexander I on a barge in the middle of the Neman river. They agreed to the treaty of Tilsit that sought to divide the world between France and Russia. This "reset" lasted 5 years until Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Prior to the invasion Alexander had already turned on Napoleon by defying the embargo on trade with Britain.
Tsar Nicholas II led Russia into the Triple Entente that allied France, Britain and Russia against the Central powers in World War I. When Russian military fortunes began to falter, the Germans shipped Lenin from Switzerland to Russia in a sealed train. Promising "bread for the people, land to the peasant and peace to all peoples" Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution that toppled the Tsar and signed a peace treaty with the Central powers. When a force of White Russians and Czechs nearly liberated the Czar and his family at Ekaterinburg all members were killed by the Bolsheviks.
During the Spanish Civil war, Stalin supplied the Loyalist government with arms and advisers while the fascist powers lined up behind Franco. The Loyalist government even entrusted yours with their national gold reserve and shipped it to the Soviet Union -- never to return (http://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured-article/german-gold-going-home.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=german-gold-going-home).
You mentioned that "we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together." This is true, but you neglected to mention that Hitler might never have invaded Poland in the first place, triggering the most catastrophic war in mankind's history, had it not been for his non-agression pact with Stalin. Seventy-four years ago this month the Nazis invaded Poland from the west while Soviet tanks invaded from the east. In the Spring of 1940, against all the rules of warfare, over 22,000 Poles were executed in the Katyn Forest massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyn_massacre). German-made Walther PPK pistols were used to carry out most of the executions -- no need for chemical weapons. During the length of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement the Soviet Union annexed three tiny Democracies: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In the winter of 1940 Stalin invaded tiny Finland.
You profess to have great respect for the mission of the United Nations. You write, "Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defence or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression."
You neglect to mention that it was only the temporary Soviet boycott of the Security Counsel at the start of the Korean War that allowed the United Nations to act in a coordinated fashion against North Korean aggression that had been instigated by Stalin and his protege Mao. Over 2 and 1/2 million civilians alone were killed in the "Police Action" in Korea.
|Ronald Reagan statue (photo: James Hooper)|
Grosvenor Square, London
I know that you were busy working for the KGB at the time of the Cold War. Had Reagan not urged the Soviets to "tear down that wall" much of the world might still remain in the grip of a repressive totalitarian ideology. You may have forgotten, but the Pope stood shoulder to shoulder with Reagan on that one.
Had George W. Bush been deterred by Russian and French obstructionism at the UN in 2003, a brutal dictator and war criminal, who launched a genocide against that Kurds killing more with poison gas than ALL casualties to date in Syria, might still be in power in Iraq today (see http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/wmd-10-years-on.html). It looks, by the way, like we finally found Saddam's missing WMD in Syria.
You rationalise your government's support of dictatorship in Syria by suggesting that Assad may not have used chemical weapons against his own people. Meanwhile, you have been supplying Assad with millions of dollars worth of conventional weapons which have, in fact, been FAR more deadly in terms of killing Syrians. This is the moral equivalent of Germany supplying the Stalin with Walther PPKs to slaughter Poles at Katyn and then having the Soviet Union attempt to coverup the truth of the massacre for decades. Now we know the truth about the Katyn massacre and, someday, we will all know the truth about Assad's crimes.
|Anna Politkovskaya, 1958 - 2006|
We Americans are, of course, far from perfect. Our elected leaders are often venal and corrupt. Our Democracy suffers from a bitter partisanship that discourages civility and reflection. Our President should not, in my estimation, have cancelled his recent summit with you (http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/obama-putin-andnapoleon.html).
I applaud your stated concern for avoiding civilian casualties in Syria. I also commend wholeheartedly your attempt to have the Syrian government "place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction." I pray that you are successful in this effort. This would truly be a beautiful thing for American and Russian people to accomplish together (see http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/ricks-dilemma-usa-and-its-syrian.html).
Beyond the destruction of Assad's chemical arsenal, I would urge you also to join with the United States in banning ALL arms shipments to either side in the Syrian conflict. This would require movement from both governments. Both nation's navies could help enforce a total arms blockade of Syria.
We Americans are not more "exceptional" in the sense that we are "better," "smarter," more "virtuous", "more godly" or "better-looking" than other people. We are "exceptional" in the sense that we live in a Constitutionally founded Republic which expressly limits the scope and power of its government in favor of individual liberty. We are "exceptional" in our long history of free expression. We are "exceptional" in terms of the opportunity that we represent to all races, creeds, genders and sexual preferences. We are "exceptional" in the sense that we have, in the course of our history, lit the torch of freedom in many dark places of the world. At our founding, Thomas Jefferson enjoined us to spread the "Empire of Liberty" throughout the world*. Abraham Lincoln called our country, "the last best hope of earth". President Reagan invoked the image of "a shining city on a hill" to describe America's exceptional mission of service in this deeply troubled world.
We Americans have been fighting tyrants from our very birth. Through our history, too often forgotten and too often maligned, we have fought George III, the Barbary pirates, Santa Anna, the Kaiser, Hitler, Mussolini, Imperial Japan, Stalin, Mao, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and many more. And when the battles have ended, we have reached out with generous economic and humanitarian aid to our defeated enemies and their victims. That is an "exceptional" record that all Americans can be proud of.
Russia is "exceptional" too. Pro-French / Pro-British, Allied / Neutral, Isolationist / Imperialist, Tsarist / Communist, Mystic / Scientific, Anti-fascist / In bed with Hitler, Orthodox / Atheist, White / Red / White again, Invaded by Napoleon and Hitler / Invades Finland and Afghanistan, American Ally / American rival, St. Petersburg / Petrograd / Leningrad / St. Petersburg, Socialist / Capitalist, and, now, Chief arms supplier to Assad / Willing to strip Assad of Chemical weapons; it is impossible to miss the "exceptionally" Protean nature of the Russian government. The only historical continuity, apart from language, is the presence of a heavy-handed police state that fears and mistrusts its own people. The Russian bear has demonstrated an "exceptional" talent for shape-shifting.
At the close of World War II, American GI's and Soviet troops worked together helped to liberate Hitler's diabolical concentration camps. Let's hope we will work together now in that same spirit to remove chemical and other weapons from Syria (CRK update: These hopes today seem to me a bit naive...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_of_Syria%27s_chemical_weapons).
As Bogie said in Casablanca after receiving a bear hug from his Russian waiter, "Get outta here, you crazy Russian!"
God Bless the Russian people and God Bless America!
Christopher R. Kelly
Will the Russian and American bosses do a "beautiful thing" in Syria?
* In a 1780 letter written during the American Revolution, Jefferson wrote, “We shall form to the American union a barrier against the dangerous extension of the British Province of Canada and add to the Empire of liberty an extensive and fertile Country thereby converting dangerous Enemies into valuable friends.”
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