Americans who lived through the Cold War were taught that the Soviet Union was not our friend. They possessed weapons that could obliterate us with “the push of a button,” as President Trump would say.
They were the scourge of democracy who ensnared Eastern Europe in an Iron Curtain.
They brought the United States to the brink of nuclear war during 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis.
They were, in the words of former President Ronald Reagan, “the Evil Empire.”
So, why is it that in the past year, Russia — the Soviet Union’s successor nation — has suddenly become our new best friend?
How is it that a former KGB spymaster named Vladimir Putin has become a role model for the president of the United States?
Why is it inconceivable that a brutal dictatorship — which, in fact, is what the government of Russia is — could be responsible for an attack on our democratic system of government?
How can so many members of the Republican party sit silent in a state of denial when overwhelming evidence confirms that Russia launched cyberattacks to not only disrupt the 2016 Presidential Election, but to foment discord and unrest throughout our nation?
This is not fake news. It is cold hard truth, substantiated both by our own intelligence community and those of our allies throughout the world.
Putin and his disciples have infiltrated numerous public and private institutions and made off with information sensitive to both our government and its citizens. They have exploited our free press, spread disinformation through social media, and have created online propaganda networks and websites.
Our new best friend is not only capable of tipping the scales of elections, but launching more aggressive cyberwarfare against our government, military, financial markets, supply chains, and infrastructure as well.
Casting politics and allegations of collusion and corruption in the Trump Administration aside, would any other president in our nation’s history tolerate such an act — an act of war?
Would Republican leaders endure denial and disengagement from reality were the White House occupied by someone from the opposing party?
Fear of a Communist takeover of our country during the 1950s caused Congress to form committees to root out Soviet agents and sympathizers in the federal government. In some instances, these threats were real; in most, merely fabrication and fantasy.
Today, Republican members of Congress, the Trump administration, and proxies like Fox News, Breitbart, and Steve Bannon, are hell-bent on outing members of a non-existent “Deep State,” the paranoid delusion they’ve concocted to protect the president and their party’s political agenda. They have effectively exchanged one imaginary enemy for another. In this instance, however, the bad guys may emerge victorious.
Frighteningly, the Republicans do so as a modern-day Nero fiddles amongst the flames of Washington while barbarians are beating down the gate.
Have they no shame or sense of duty? Does political ideology trump the ideals of our founding fathers, the Constitution, and those among us who abide by the rule of law?
The demise of the Soviet Union and the emergence of modern Russia was heralded as democracy’s triumph over totalitarianism. The sad reality is, its splintering happened faster than anyone could ever have imagined, with dire consequences.
Russia has become increasingly corrupt, with the spoils of war being siphoned off to Putin, his friends, family and those at the highest levels of his government. Criminal deeds and disregard for treaties and international borders have led to sanctions and economic hardship. And despite outward appearances, the Russian people are ruled with an iron fist by a man fearful of the truth.
It would be devastating if the leaders of our nation allowed a tragedy of this magnitude to occur here at home while ostensibly draining some imaginary swamp.
Keeping our friends close doesn’t necessarily mean we should keep our enemies closer.
Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer and columnist. He edits the online blog Soaggragated.com, and can be reached at BBess.firstname.lastname@example.org.