“And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back. Because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.” This burn heard ‘round the world was dealt by Pres. Barack Obama to candidate Mitt Romney during a debate in the 2012 election. Candidate Romney had recently stated that America’s greatest geopolitical foe was Russia. At the time, America was still engaged in intense fights with Al-Qaeda. We were increasingly suspicious of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and role in state-sponsored terror. So to Pres. Obama – and most of the world – Romney’s comment was laughable.
He may be too nice to do it in public, but now it’s Romney’s turn to laugh. With ISIS in retreat and a pause in tensions with North Korea, Russia is once again the front runner as America’s greatest security concern. China’s economic strength and cyber espionage are also cause for alarm, but in all-time counts of espionage against the U.S., Russia and the Soviet Union still reign supreme.
Cold War Déjà vu All Over Again
Today’s headlines are plucked straight from an era we all thought was over: the Cold War. There’s a tendency for each generation to believe they are much more evolved than the last. We watch “Red Dawn,” “The Americans,” or “Twilight Zone” and think how silly it seems that the world was so paranoid. How absurd that school children were drilled to hide under their desks in case of nuclear attack! How ridiculous that America’s fear of Communism prompted war, assassinations, and espionage! We’d never be so foolish (cue the know-it-all laughter).
Recent news should remind us that our parents and grandparents were not paranoid; the Russians really were out to get them. And now they’re out to get us. They’re poisoning political enemies with deadly nerve agents. They are allying themselves with other oppressive states like Turkey and posing threats to our military superiority. Neighboring states fear Russian aggression. Last but not least, Russia conspired to sow discord in the 2016 election. Just last month, Sen. Mark Warner, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, admitted that despite the U.S. outspending them tenfold, Russia’s cyber espionage is equal to or superior to ours.
KGB “Spy Town” Proves Russia is a Determined Enemy
With tensions resurging, we would do well to remember what Russia is capable of. If the headlines aren’t enough of a reminder, we need only to look to relics of the Cold War to remember what a capable, dedicated adversary we face. One such relic is this video. Made by CIA and Sandia Labs, it shows an “American town” circa 1959. The town was complete with American cars, suburban homes, diners, and jukeboxes. It also had a church – though it was always locked.
This “town” was actually in Vinnitsya, Ukraine, USSR. Surrounded by guards and barbed wire, it served as a training ground for KGB spies who would eventually come to America. Police officers, bartenders, and pharmacists in the town were all actually instructors, teaching the spies all they needed to know to blend in in America.
Like the system of fallout shelters that lives beneath Washington, D.C., this internet oddity is just one of many ghosts of the Cold War. Pres. Obama meant to be glib with his remark to Romney. But just six years later, it reflects the naivete of most Americans that the Russian bear had been laid to rest. Instead it was just hibernating.
So pop that “Red Dawn” tape in the VCR and start restocking the fallout shelter – the Cold War is back in style.