It was Nixon, you understand, and his cold warrior cohort of the Dulles brothers who ran the American government for most of Eisenhower’s second term while Ike was largely in recovery from a series of heart problems. These esatz warriors not only dreamed up the Bay of Pigs disaster, but created the policies that caused the Soviets to try and install missiles in Cuba.
The key to understanding the confrontation is the alliance between the U.S. and Turkey, allowing American military basing and operations. We flew spy planes over the Soviet border until Gary Powers was shot down and publicly tried for espionage, and in the late ‘50s we decided to install some missile batteries in the northern Turkey bases. Moscow resented this close-to-home threat and agreed with a particularly paranoid Fidel Castro to counter the U.S.-Turkish maneuver with some rockets of its own in Cuba.
The rest, as they say, is history, and after puckering the orifices of leaders on both sides of the Iron Curtain, a secret deal was cut to remove the Cuban arsenal in return for our pulling our rocket batteries out of Turkey, quietly over the next two years.
Now comes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who, it is rumored, encouraged President Saakasvilli of formerly Soviet Georgia to initiate a military sortie into the autonomous and semi secessionist provinces of South Ossettia and Abkhazia. Apparently, the taskforce intrusion was not altogether a surprise, since the Russian troops and armour were already positioned on the border and struck back with an overwhelming counterattack with a day. The ensuing war was short but damaging and created refugees, for whom the U.S. immediately declared a humanitarian aid mission.
Now the Black Sea has been a Russian ocean since an out-of-work American sailor by the name of John Paul Jones built the Czarina the first battle fleet in that nation’s history. Separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow passage between Greece and Turkey, the Black Sea has been a literal backwater of international events for most of the last century, notable only for the Soviet fleet in Sebastopol, Ukraine. Two years past the Russian fleet sailed through the Dardanelles and Bosporos to operate in the eastern med and access the Atlantic for the first time since WWII.
Citing the humanitarian mission to Georgia, the U.S. sent three ships of relief supplies to the port of Sochi, two supply freighters and one Coast Guard cutter. Somehow that morphed into the transfer of the 6th Fleet flagship with all support vessels from Naples to anchor offshore Sochi. These ships are the forward strategic Naval force of the U.S. and NATO, armed with missiles capable of hitting major Russian cities west of the Urals. If Moscow felt threatened in ’62 over Turkish basing, how about having a fleet in their own front yard fish pond?
At this writing, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has invited the Russian navy to joint naval exercises in the Caribbean this Fall, and Moscow plans to send its newest atomic powered battleship to the exercise, complete with what we must assume is a full arsenal of weapons capable of hitting any city in the U.S.
High seas fleet confrontation seems like a chapter out of Teddy Roosevelt’s play book, but here we are again, all at sea on foreign policy.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. "The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.