The Russians Are Not Coming II

04/16/2015 02:26 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015

Just about a year ago I wrote a piece here, The Russians Are Not Coming, suggesting that Vladimir Putin was not the boogieman that others, particularly Republicans, were suggesting.

Five years ago, I wrote a piece, Tea With Medvedev, which reported that after arriving late to our meeting at the Russian White House that "he [Medvedev] had been held up by a last minute message from Iran's [then] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." In it "Ahmadinejad criticized Russia and the Russian President for agreeing with the United States to support further sanctions against Iran because of its continuing nuclear build up... President Medvedev told us that he had informed Ahmadinejad that he appreciated Russian's neighborly and cordial relationship with Iran, and that he wished to continue that relationship, but that, in this case, he would support the United States because he believed that the sanctions were in the best interests of the people of Russia and he always tried to act in the best interests of his country."

At this point it is important to remember that the Russians have veto power at the United Nations and if they had chosen they could have vetoed all UN-imposed sanctions on Iran. They did not do that. And that denial has enabled us, the US, to put the pressure on Iranians that brought them to the table in Geneva, where the US, the Russians and other European countries concluded the agreement that is now being finalized in which the Iranians surrender their right to build a nuclear weapon.

In the interim, Vladimir Putin, has reclaimed the presidency of Russia and has been acting in what he believes to be the best interests of the people of Russia. When the government of Ukraine changed from pro-Russian to pro-NATO and the people of the eastern Ukraine, many of whom are Russians, took up arms to defend their lands, Putin contributed weapons and warplanes to their defense. The result is a continuing scrimmage between a weak Ukrainian army and a Russian-armed resistance force in Donetsk and the surrounding territory which they now hold.

Crimea is a different story. Putin sent Russian forces there to reclaim the region from the Ukrainians. He had a different motive: My friend, Igor Makurin, who had been the New York bureau chief for TASS for many years, and upon his return to Russian had married Nikita Khrushchev's great granddaughter, Xenia, told me that Khrushchev is now remembered in Russia as the man who gave Crimea to the Ukrainians and that Russians would never forgive him for that. I assume, very certainly I think, that Putin was well aware of Khrushchev's mistake and decided to reclaim the Crimea for the sake of Russian pride. He has succeeded and seems to have assured his own presidency.

Today, the AP reports that "Romania, US, British Troops Stage NATO-Planned Exercises." They are taking part in military exercises near the Ukrainian border and will "continue until April 30th at two locations at Eastern Romania: the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase near the Black Sea port of Constanta..." In the north, US forces are working with Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian troops near their borderline with Russian cities. A US destroyer is at this moment in the waters of the Black Sea near Constanta and a dozen US Airforce A-10 planes are based farther north.

It seems to me that the West is once more struggling to divide Russia from its eastern neighbors' putting increasing pressure on Putin as he struggles to retain Russia's influence in that area. The West is taking advantage of the defeat of a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader to drive the former Soviets away from their previously pro-Russian allies.

Putin is acting as any political leader should, in trying to preserve and protect his country. He may not be a nice man, but he certainly is not the devil that we are making him.

I still remember that more than ten million Russian died battling Hitler who attacked Russia from the east. I can well understand Putin's desire to guard his western flank. The Russians aren't in a position to come at anybody right now.