As Dirty Harry might put it, with all the excitement you might have missed this proclamation from the Russians: "The head of Russia's army said Tuesday that Moscow had no intention to end its military presence in Syria despite the escalating violence and threat of President Bashar al-Assad's fall."
Over here, we've got Russian submarines in the Gulf of Mexico and Russian bombers in our Pacific air space. And a fully funded program to test our missile defense system is in the gutting room of this administration. The estimable Chet Nagle tells us to be very afraid, and he doesn't scare easily...
Meanwhile, we have President Obama pretending he doesn't really want to cut our military strength (when he proudly announced the cuts at year's start, describing it as part of a new post-long-war strategy).
And to round out the portrait, the troops at Fort Bliss were not wildly enthusiastic when the president came to talk to them. They gave him "fleeting applause and extended periods of silence." Well, if the past is a reliable guide to the future, military votes won't really be counted anyway, if the Democrat Party has anything to say about it. Which it does.
In brief: Russia's in Syria and not leaving. Russians are in our seas and our airspace and we're giving them every opportunity to do bad things to us. The president's slashing and burning our military strength and blaming the Republicans for it.
Maybe we shouldn't worry. After all, in many ways Russia's a failed state, with shrinking population, very low birth rates, a vague shadow of the once-awesome Red Army, the traditional levels of alcoholism, and a restive opposition that runs from jailed businessmen to world champion chess masters and all-girl rock groups. They are not going to march into Europe. So what could go wrong?
As I've written at considerable length, Russia is part of a global alliance aimed at us. Putin et. al. are in cahoots with Khamanei, Chavez, the Chinese, Bolivians, Ecuadorians, Nicaraguans and North Koreans and of course Assad. The Russians don't have much of an army, but they are helping the terror masters arm and train our would-be assassins. And they work very closely with the Iranians, especially on intelligence matters. A few years ago I was told by an official of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry that if we wanted to understand what the regime was up to, we had to look carefully at the Russian connection. I took him seriously (he was very precise and very accurate, and eventually the regime killed him), and ever since our conversation I've sniffed about, trying to figure out what the Russians are up to. What sort of trouble can they cause for us?
For starters, there's the nuclear program, which starts with the Bushehr reactor. The Russians have just announced that it is now fully operational. Years late, to be sure, but now it's switched on. Then there are the Iranian air defenses, which the Iranians claim are mostly missiles based on Russia's S-300s. The Iranians say they are homemade, but I have my doubts. I suspect that at least some of them, and maybe even all of them, were smuggled into Iran via Venezuela. Certainly lots of military materiel has taken that route, along with plenty of freshly laundered cash.
And then there's espionage. Remember that case in 2010, when we caught ten Russian "illegals" and quickly sent them back to Moscow (Vienna, actually) in exchange for four prisoners in Russia who had been convicted of spying for us (two cases) and the Brits (two others). Alas, there was nothing like serious interrogation of the "illegals," because we didn't want a spy story to interfere with our sensitive negotiations about arms control and Afghanistan. What a shame! Illegals are the most secret of all agents, operating outside any "official cover," and it would have been invaluable to uncover their missions, which could have revealed the Russians' strategic plan for the penetration and manipulation of the United States.
Which takes us to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. In the old days when we paid attention to KGB operations, we would have suspected that these guys were involved in anti-American disinformation, and that they got help from Moscow. It would have been obvious: the leaks were damaging to us, not to our enemies. They came from our filing cabinets, and they sometimes compromised people who worked with us. More: when Assange, the chief wikileaker, was threatened with arrest, where did he run? To the Ecuadorian Embassy. And what is Ecuador? A member of that global anti-American alliance that unites jihadis and leftists. An ally of Chavez.
The trial of Bradley Manning doesn't get under way until next February or March, but I hope that some smart Army lawyer asks him how he knew what to do with all those documents he stole, and whether he got any help in transmitting them to Assange's group.
To be sure, this is all deduction based in part on the experiences of an older man who saw a lot of Soviet disinformation in the 1980s. It may well be that Wikileaks is just a group of activists, and that Bradley Manning figured it all out himself. But we live in a wired world, right? And any intelligence organization worth its vodka is part of the wiring diagram, right?
Time will tell, of course, but I'm worried about the Russians. I'm worried because Nagle says I should, and also because a lot of what's happening smells - to me at least - of them.
Dr. Michael Ledeen is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is also a contributing editor at National Review Online. Previously, he served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Defense Department. He has also served as a special adviser to the Secretary of State. He holds a Ph.D. in modern European history and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, and has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rome.
Dr. Ledeen regularly appears on Fox News, and on a variety of radio talk shows. He has been on PBS's NewsHour and CNN's Larry King Live, among others, and regularly contributes to the Wall Street Journal and to National Review Online. He has a blog on Pajamasmedia.com.
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