More on the Russian spy ring

A few things:

• A total of eleven people have been arrested. They led seemingly normal lives in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.

• Their neighbors thought they were average suburbanites, not spies. “‘They couldn’t have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas,’ 15-year-old Jessie Gugig quipped to the New York Times after the arrest of the Murphys.”

• This case is showing the subtly with which the Obama administration is capable of operating. From The Guardian:

[President] Obama was aware of the investigation before he met with the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at the White House last Thursday. The two leaders did not discuss the issue, Gibbs said.

• Obama knew about it, but he and Medvedev had cheeseburgers together one day in Virginia! Mr. Obama certainly is a cool-minded leader if he can pull that off.

• Curiously, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is among those who have said this won’t have a real impact on the course of Russian-American affairs. A writer for The Guardian agrees with that. (It’s my sense, too.)

• Who knew—Medvedev’s a Mac user! And an iPad user. And Steve Jobs gave Medvedev an Apple iPhone 4G during his tour of Silicon Valley. Lucky dog…

(Compare this to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s tour of California in 1959, when there was still extensive train service, and Silicon Valley didn’t exist!)

• The FBI announced the arrests a few days after Medvedev returned to Russia. David Hearst argues that this spy scandal is the last thing that Medvedev needs as he seeks to bring Russia more fully into the modern economic systems.

• The good news? The spy ring was busted before it could do any real spying.


Presidents Obama, Medvedev sign new nuclear weapons reduction treaty

Bravo, Mr. President. Anything that helps reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world is a good thing. Steps to reduce the number of loose nukes or nuclear material is just as important.

Coverage via TPM:

While I once pondered the attempt by the previous resident of the White House to start a new Cold War that was much like the old Cold War, President Obama has taken effective steps to renew America’s relationship with Russia.

Bravo, Mr. President. Bravo.

Nuclear arms treaty would be Obama’s second great accompishment

I remember the year 1987 as being one of particularly heady days for me. While I had no idea that my life was going to head south for a while, literally and figuratively, I had started to become well aware of the international tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. About five years earlier while on a Boy Scout trip to an air base somewhere in Michigan, I asked a man in uniform, “Any commies up there?” He laughed and said, “No, no commies up there.” I didn’t have any idea what that really meant, other than commies were bad.

Twenty years later, as a slightly learned historian of the Cold War, I have perhaps a more nuanced perspective on Soviet Union and communism. Don’t read that to mean that I’m a fan of communism. I’m certainly not. I know a bit of what Leninist-Stalinist communism did to Russia and Eastern Europe, and it’s interesting to watch how it continues to evolve in China. How it affected American attitudes and ideas about the world is another subject altogether.

That said, I do recall the joy I felt in 1987 when President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. I had been having nightmares about nuclear war, partially due to my study of nuclear weapons using information available in my grade school library. Hearing that Reagan and Gorbachev were going to meet peacefully was very reassuring. After the signing, both were seen as heroes in the United States—especially Gorbachev, who attained a celebrity status. (Remember the ad he was in for Pizza Hut? The dialog between the people in the restaurant about “being on the edge of economic ruin” because of Gorbie is frighteningly true.)

. According to Atomic Archive, the INF treaty “resulted in the elimination of 846 U.S. INF missile systems and 1,846 Soviet INF missile systems [a total of 2,692 missiles]… The INF treaty is the first nuclear arms control agreement to actually reduce nuclear arms, rather than establish ceilings.”

In 2010, talk of nuclear weapons is a distant thought for many. That said, we still have thousands of nukes ready for use. So it has been very encouraging to hear word that President Obama and Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev, have been drawing closer and closer to signing a new treaty. The New York Times reports that roadblocks towards having a treaty have been overcome, and a new treaty should be ready by April. It apparently would be signed at a summit in Prague.

Creating a binding nuclear weapons treaty and being able to negotiate its terms with Russia is no small task. When a new treaty is signed, President Obama will have achieved a second and very significant accomplishment.

President Obama knows his history

And the health care industry reforms he proposed, is most certainly not “a Bolshevik plot.”

The president described it as being “pretty similar to what Howard Baker, Bob Dale, and Tom Daschle proposed at the beginning of this debate last year,” whom he said were “not a radical bunch.” Not anything like “socialism,” of which he was accused. In fact, there is a talk happening over in Madison called “The Left & Obama,” in which I hope my dear comrades will be gently told that at no time did the man we elected president promise single payer health care. It’s right to ask why he’s clinging to many Bush policies. Yet he’s also helping bring long-overdue passenger rail (absent sixty years!) to Wisconsin and the Midwest. This news came just as many respected business leaders came together to say that effective transit is vital to the region’s long-term economic success.

While the Bolsheviks are a thing of the past, nuclear weapons are still very much with us. That legacy of the Cold War still drains billions of dollars each year. (The Iraq wars are also relics of the Cold War that drain billions of dollars per month, but that’s another story.) President Obama and Russian President Medvedev are very close to signing a new nuclear weapons reduction treaty. We would still have many hundreds of nukes on hand, but the closer we get that number to nil, the better.

The president has shown few, if any traits of socialist inklings. He’s a fairly moderate guy. But this second year of his administration is off to a very good start.