Editor's Note:  Ever so often we look back on our old articles and see something that either fulfilled an expectation or is somehow relevant. At this juncture, where Donald seems to be gaining traction because of his successes -- successful nomination to the Supreme Court, tax reform, better economic indicators and what appears to be a turning tide in Russo-gate -- we conclude he seems to be right in his earlier accusations that President Obama misused his presidential power. Obama used the discredited narrative of salacious memorandum about Trump's 2000 visit to Russia, yet this slur served as the basis for the Phizer court order to investigate him.  It looks like the tide is turning.  Of course some adjustment of his personal communications must be made.  But if you carefully read this memorandum, we were among the very few who gave him  a chance to undertake his presidential mission.



                                      Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta,

                                                                July 29, 2015

“I must admit that I am surprised by your admiration for Donald Trump. I have none,” wrote our friend, a distinguished American scholar.   I surely admire this friend and his views are shared by many.  Front runner Donald Trump still has the highest unfavorable ratings of any candidate.   But my sentiments are different.

We don’t know yet if Trump will survive the presidential vetting process,  but I have a  gut feeling, based on my  experience with two other, also once much underestimated leaders, that  he may be one of the very few candidates who can rescue this country amidst her deep crisis.   One of these two leaders was Ronald Reagan; the other -- Boris Yeltsin.

When I dined with Reagan and  other scholars in 1981,  he was still being called a “dum dum,”   “Hollywood cowboy” and “war monger.”  But Reagan developed and pursued a coherent vision  to transcend Russian communism.  Its main component was  an  iron clad commitment to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles to save Europe from Kremlin blackmail. He  thus negotiated with Gorbachev even despite the State Department bureaucrats´ scorn for his  idyllic vision of  bringing democratic reform to Russia.  But under the pressure of Reagan Doctrine, strategic change did occur in Russia.

The other leader was Boris Yeltsin, whom  I  got to know in academic, town hall and social settings, including   a vodka dinner with his family.  In 1989, I headed  the Institute of Soviet and East European Studies, and amidst nationwide Gorbymania, was the only professor in the country to invite Yeltsin to my institute in Miami.   Just as Trump has been smeared as a “dum dum,” “buffoon,”  “blowhard”, and “media whore,”  Yeltsin, a rising presidential challenger,  was  tarred as a “buffoon,” “clown,” “mentally unstable,” and  “drunkard.”  Shunned by U.S. academia and the Bush administration,  he was also a pariah with the Kremlin for his politically incorrect behavior.

But the Siberian bulldozer, like the real estate mogul, soared  in the polls,  loved by the Russian people for blasting their corrupt system on TV.  Thus, he won the first free election in Moscow and then the presidency.  As I  wrote in “Yeltsin´s Soviet Vision” in the Miami Herald, 9/17/1989, Yeltsin favored “radical economic reform and democratization of the Soviet political system as well as true sovereignty for the Soviet non-Russian republics.”  That was exactly what Yeltsin achieved.  He set the non-Russian republics free.  Yes, he proved a poor  administrator,  bored by governance -- but he was an extraordinary revolutionary.

I see certain qualities of Reagan in Trump.  The ditsy 20-something commentators declaring he does not have “good ideas” should consider that he didn´t get to be a multi -billionaire by having as much air in their heads as they do.  Like Reagan, Trump is a former democrat. While Reagan had executive experience as a governor,  Trump,  an already  larger than life figure,   is  a  successful business mogul.  Both have been show biz actors, important in the era of TV, and for Trump, the age of social media.  Both are strong characters  ruled by inner conviction rather than public polls. Trump, unlike Yeltsin, is also a very good  administrator. 

Our Insecure Southern Borders With Dysfunctional State

The Donald has also already done our country a service  by opening up the much neglected problem of our insecure, 2700 mile, southern borders with dysfunctional state Mexico.  Moreover, he has brought requisite attention to our 200  major sanctuary cities—refuges for illegal immigrant criminals  evading justice.  Not just the case of murdered Kate Steinle, but  statistics of 347,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions are at issue, particularly when their home countries will not take them back.   Meanwhile, President Obama has vowed to  veto  a House bill to pull cash from sanctuary  cities that flout federal immigration laws.  Trump  must aim at closing or at least reforming these  cities.

In his  visit to the Mexican borders, the mogul  demonstrated he´s a fast learner.  He recognized that illegals coming to our homeland are not  just  from Latin America, but from all parts of the world including Muslim countries.   Mexico, however,  is  not doing nearly as well as he said. A failed state, it´s not only dysfunctional, but ridden with dangerous corruption, drugs, murders disappearing students and terrorism. 

Our point is that Trump now needs to expand the borders issue into a coherent, although multi-faceted vision. For example, he needs to add how Narco-lords like Joaquin Guzman (El Chapo) , responsible for the death of hundreds, and the drugging of our youth, are a major threat to our homeland.  Just escaped from a maximum security prison through a mile-long, air conditioned tunnel,  El Chapo has also built a network of  formidable tunnels under our  borders  for moving heroin and cocaine.  Seventy-five have been discovered; there are surely more.  His escape  also presents a direct challenge to Mexican President Pena Nieto.  If  he is not detained, Mexico might yet end up as a nation run by  drug lords.  

As explained below, Trump also needs to explain cogently how our  national security priorities  are wrong and also link this to the borders issue.

Is Russia the Major Threat to Our National Security?

To our top general, new Joint Chiefs of Staff  general Joseph Dunford, and Army Lt. General  Mark Milley,  Russia presents the main existential threat.  I beg to differ. As a Russian expert who has studied our main rival for the last  five decades, and who taught three intelligence services for a decade at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School at the Department of National Security Affairs, I concur that  “Russia is the only country that contains the capability to destroy the United States.” Surely  true as it was during the decades-long Cold War. But as my wife, Leni, and I  concluded, in our essay “Divining Putin´s Intentions, Why We Must Lose Strategic  Patience,” in an upcoming Aspen Review, “…even if Putin goes on nuclear alert as he threatened with Crimea, he, like all his predecessors will not risk  a wider war and nuclear holocaust.”

Facing the same threat of Islamic terrorism as our country, Russia is not just an adversary, but, as we wrote in  The National Interest,  one with whom we have  common interests  and common enemies.    The Russians,  are  also a product of Eastern Judeo-Christian civilization and Putin´s self-image is as a  defender of Christians.  Moreover, his   Solzhenitsyn-like new, nationalistic, anti-western ideology is surely much less virulent than  that of the Nazi-like, Islamists.

The Hydra of Islamic Terrorism and Our Homeland

Thus, besides the issues of immigration, drugs lords, and sanctuary cities, one doesn´t have to be a  respected Middle East expert like Daniel Pipes to understand that terrorists can forge alliances with Mexico´s narco lords and pass through our southern border.   While Russia is not likely to turn one of our cities into radioactive ash, the Islamists will eagerly do it if they can. Moreover, much like the Islamic terrorists,  El Chapo, facing  U.S.  demands for extradition, considers America  the main enemy.

Not only new segments of a wall but special forces, intelligence units and  air force assets are needed at our borders to protect out homeland.  Trump must also link our open borders to the ongoing war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the expansion of their terrorist attacks on three continents.  The way Obama has prosecuted what he fails to call the war against ISIS, tells us he should learn the motto of Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor.  “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.”

But as our formidable Homeland Security chief, Jeh Johnson, revealed, he was asked not to call the terrorists “Islamic.”  Obama believes that, refraining from the label presumably would serve in our effort to build “trust” among Muslims.  Thus, the FBI has orders to call Muhammad Youseff Abudlazeez, the Tennessee killer, not an Islamic terrorist, but  a “home-grown violent extremist” though his e-mails prove otherwise. True, that’s up  a notch from  the “workplace violence” of Major Hassan at Fort Hood, who yelled  Allah Akbar as he shot our soldiers.  But just imagine FDR in WWII building “trust” among Germans and refraining from calling Hitler´s followers  “Nazis.”

In the era of social media, our enemies do not need submarines to deliver terrorists to our shores. Aside from those who come through our borders,  social media, and local mosques with terrorist ties, are also furnishing homegrown militants.   The point is, unless we defeat, not “downgrade” ISIS in the Middle East, the problem here will only get worse.

Also, before we exult in Turkey´s joining our coalition  fighting ISIS, we must realize that Ankara's main objective is to hit the Kurds, fighting for a homeland in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.  Possibly,  ISIS leaders, in bombing Turkey, made a strategic calculation to provoke the conflict between the Turks and the Kurds, our best allies in fighting ISIS.  The Middle East mess is getting worse and without the direct military involvement of our air controllers and special forces, our victory is not in sight.

Second Hydra, Shiite Iran.  Nuclear Deal and Our Strategic Backyard

So far the  divisive debate over the questionable nuclear deal with  Iran,  has  concentrated mainly on nuclear enrichment, production of nuclear weapons and verification.   Neglected, is that after we lift the sanctions, a   much richer Iran  will  not only support their proxies in the Middle East,   but also those they have cultivated in the Americas!  During our own research in Central America,   we learned there are hundreds  of Middle East immigrants in the Caribbean Basin, and the mullahs have built mosques and  Shiite centers to service them.

As the Wall Street Journal´s Mary Anastasia O’Grady asserts,  a wealthier Iran can plague us in our own hemisphere. She reports the claim that  from 2008-12,  a former Venezuela´s interior minister “provided new identities to 173 Middle Easterners.”   Iran also had “observer status” in the  anti-U.S. Bolivarian, pro-Castro,  Alliance for the  Americas, founded by Fidel Castro and Caesar Chavez in 2004. Recall that Castro´s Cuba –  just taken off the U.S. terrorist list and the black list of nations engaged in modern day slavery -- recently received U.S. diplomatic recognition without recognition of human rights.  

Thus the Caribbean might once again be on fire as during the Reagan era -- challenged by pro-Iranian, Shiite activists, cultivated with the help, particularly, of Venezuela.  Covered in our Tico Times (San Jose) essay , but largely unnoticed, to the chagrin of democratic Costa Rica,  is Nicaragua´s effort to build a new canal to rival Panama´s, with Chinese money. Managua, like Caracas, has received military help from Russia. 

Our advice to Trump, while connecting all these factors, is to make an iron clad commitment to seal our southern borders.  He can also point to   Obama´s and Hillary´s  opposition to  this path.  They want more immigration in the belief it will furnish more Democratic Party voters and enshrine their party in perpetuity.  Both are also supporting the  nuclear deal with Iran.

Iran and Ukraine Linkage 

“I don't conceal it, and everyone understands this: The more conflicts there are, the more they buy weapons from us.” Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec, the Russian state arms industry conglomerate, was explaining how Russia was profiting from the  Iran nuclear deal.

While Russia does not pose present and immediate threat to our homeland,  Vladimir Putin´s diplomacy is hardly savory with respect to the nuclear deal.  In the  April 22, 2015 Kyiv Post, we wrote that,  Obama's refusal so far to arm Ukraine with defensive weapons might be rooted in his belief that  Russia could help him clinch the Iran  deal.  Didn´t Putin help him to avoid a 2013 war in Syria by aiding with the removal of Assad ´s chemical weapons?

We were right. Indeed, Obama expressed gratitude to Putin for his ability to “compartmentalize” and assist  the making of the nuclear deal.  The Russians agreed to accept Iran´s radioactive nuclear waste. But Russian help always comes labeled “buyer beware.”  Russia had its own economic interests in mind because of its embattled economy.  Also subject to Western sanctions, she was eager to  benefit from lifting  the restriction on export of an Antey-2500 anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system—an upgraded version of the S-300 -- to Iran.  Both Moscow and Beijing are  expecting  additional military contracts in conventional weapons and ICBM technology with Iran.

In short, the Iran issue should  have been  decoupled by the U.S. from Ukraine.  Like Yugoslavia when threatened in 1949 by Stalin, Ukraine should have been armed with defensive weapons.  The key with Russia  is active containment coupled with high level diplomacy by a strong  U.S. leader like Nixon and Reagan; not one disrespected like Obama, or untrustworthy and under investigation like Hillary.

More than a year ago in the April 21, 2014 Kyiv Post, we were first to propose the Ukraine should be armed with defensive weapons. Doubtless, Ukraine independence must also be assured with economic aid.  But our next president must also act as a mediator between Kyiv and Moscow.  Additionally, he must also support the civic rights and autonomy of Russian speakers in  the eastern Ukraine, as well as Latvia and Estonia. Meanwhile, Georgia and Ukraine must not become members of NATO.

 Barack Obama, You Are Not Ronald Reagan! 

Those who mistakenly try to equate Obama´s openings with Iran and Cuba, to Reagan´s with Russia, miss a few salient differences.  The President was not prepared to let Kerry to walk away from a bad deal as Ronald Reagan did at 1986 Reykjavik.  Nor has there been any attempt to stem the support of Iran´s  terrorist proxies in the Middle East and  Americas. Nor was the return of our hostages established as a precondition.  Unlike Obama and Kerry,  Reagan tied arms control agreements to resolving Russia´s regional conflicts  in both hemispheres, with  particular attention to Poland, Nicaragua, Cuba,  Afghanistan and Angola. He also insisted on linking progress in nuclear negotiation with that on human   rights. 

Another difference, of course, is that the Gipper was negotiating with Mikhail Gorbachev and his enlightened, Soviet Henry Kissinger, Alexander Yakovlev.  Unlike in 1980’s Russia, there are no crowds of Iranians asking for glasnost. Nor did Obama help such supporters when they did arise in 2009.   Rather we have witnessed the Ayatollah overseeing  crowds  shouting “Death to America, Death to Israel.” 

My  own experience  with Iran “glasnost"?  An Iranian journalist Hamid Bayati, an avid reader of jvlv.net, our website, repeatedly asked me for an interview. But when it was published in January 2015 by the Tehran Times and Tasnim News Agency, it was censored, unlike several of those I gave to Russian  periodicals during glasnostera.  With our  latest interview on the Iran nuke deal, given at Bayati's request,  I insisted it be published in full.  He disappeared.  Some glasnost!

And the nuke deal?  Just for a moment imagine FDR negotiating with Hitler on the eve of WWII, the curbing of Nazi Germany´s nuclear program  Picture them haggling over the heavy water reactor built in Norway, while accepting the advances of Germans in Europe and northern Africa and terrorists at our shores.

2016 Elections

The key question I  was asked in the interview by Bayati was how the Iran deal would influence the 2016 elections. He´s not the only one asking.  Will the mullahs and Putin be surprised if Trump and Bernie Sanders become the key contenders?

Both Bernie Sanders and Trump  have tapped into voter disgust with a corrupt and deeply flawed system, symbolized by Ted Cruz´s  term “Washington Cartel.”  In the primaries, Sanders is a natural ally  of Trump's.  As Hillary´s appeal sinks into the sludge of her e-mail server infractions, her charitable foundation and the Benghazhi-gate cover-up,  Sanders and Trump might yet be the chief presidential contenders.  If she is elected nonetheless, we might yet discover  that a  kleptocracy is not strictly a  phenomenon of Putin’s Russia. 

He must change his iconoclastic and at times abrasive style into well thought and sober policy recommendations rooted in a coherent vision.   The forthcoming debate will show if he´s capable of it.  He must not only follow the motto that America´s business is business, but  convey that the business of the U.S. government is above all our national survival.  He  must also  study Obama’s and Hillary´s silly reset with Russia and prepare for a  Reagan-esque approach leading eventually to a new détente with the Kremlin.  

To prevail, Donald must follow the Gipper´s example.  As the candidates run the gauntlet of presidential politics, the slightest mishap or chance remark can move the needle.  Trump must become the person  known  to  his own secretary;  the man who insisted for years not to deny Jews and blacks access to all Palm Beach prestigious clubs. He must aim at appealing not only to the silent, blue collar silent majority in the heartland, but also to  educated Americans .   Charm  and affability are key.  Smiles, not scowls, basic facts as the Gipper usually had.  Then he might win over even our esteemed friend who has no admiration for him.

We are glad Trump apologized to John McCain as we advised. He must now change his iconoclastic and at times abrasive style into well thought and sober policy recommendations rooted in a coherent vision.  The forthcoming debate will show if he´s capable of it.  He must not only follow the motto that America´s business is business, but  convey that the business of the U.S. government is above all our national survival.  He  must also  study Obama’s and Hillary´s silly reset with Russia and prepare for a Reaganesque approach leading eventually to a new détente with the Kremlin.

A  crash course in history is also a must. As Churchill put it, “Study history, study history.  In history lies all secrets of statecraft."  He does not have to know the details.  The Gipper didn´t know them either.  However, as we learned from Reagan´s writings, he not only studied but wrote some of his own speeches.  Most of all, at a time of distress and turmoil, he had a strong, clear, and unalterable vision of how to make America great again. 

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