Think ABout It: From Russia with love

My earliest recall of realizing Russia, then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a threat to me personally was in junior high, now known as middle school. I was in my first year of being a teenager.

My school was preparing a plan for students in the event the USSR dropped an atomic bomb on Boeing. The vision of such an event was enough to cause nightmares.

The school determined the best plan was to bus students out of the area, a plan that required parental approval. I took the form home and gave it to my mother to sign. She did but did not approve of my getting on a bus and leaving the area.

I envisioned standing outside the school watching my friends and other students being comforted by adults and getting on buses.

“Are you sure Mommy? What do you want me to do if we’re bombed?” I asked, thinking she did not understand.

“I want you to come home,” she answered, looking at her hands doing some kind of needlework.

‘Why?!” I may have shouted. “It’s a long way away and no one will be here.”

No reply other than a stiffening that signaled the end of any discussion.

I imagined the difficulty of walking the three or more miles home, through chaos to an empty house. Hence, my nightmares included me alone looking out the window of our house to see bombs exploding across Puget Sound.

Not surprisingly, the incident fueled my teenage angst which was beginning to form and see tragedy in most things my parents said and did. I did recover from the many such tragedies that befell the teenage me, but I have not lost my understanding that Russia seeks to destroy America or at least the democratic America.

I am not a historian or an expert in foreign relations. I am an ordinary citizen who catches the news and listens when our leaders speak of potential danger be it a land or cyber invasion by Covid or a foreign country.

I am worried that as time goes on and the silent generation dies and takes it memory with it, our country will lose the history that informs and supports our democracy.

I am alarmed that recent generations coming into power are unaware of the rewards and responsibilities of democracy and are flirting with adopting dictatorship, threats of brutality, and oppression. I worry they are susceptible to opportunists using dictatorship, communism or socialism as lures and tools to gain power and control government.

Given those worries, I offer an abbreviated history to inspire serious consideration of the dangers of losing freedoms if we forsake our democratic constitution, law, and institutions.

Lest we forget

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance of 31 member states — 29 European and two North American — was established in 1949, formed to deter attacks on member countries and assure a united defense if a member is attacked.

The primary defense concern then, and now, is the possibility of invasion by the USSR.

Our leaders were wary of the USSR following World War II then under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, who took over leadership of the country in 1924 following the death of Vladimir Lenin — the leader of the first country to adopt communism as a form of government in 1917.

One of the aims of communism is to destroy capitalism and assume state control of markets, choices and individual freedom of choice.

Stalin established Russia as a state-controlled industrialized economy. Stalin proved to be a brutal and dominating leader and man. He was a dictator who had dissenters deported, imprisoned (Gulags) and killed. In what is termed “the great purge,” Stalin ordered the killing of between 750,000 and one million people. He gobbled up control of surrounding countries and his regime became the USSR.

The growth of communism was viewed as a threat to democracy. President Harry Truman called for the containment of communism in The Truman Doctrine. More than thirty-four countries adopted communist governments between 1940 and 1979.

The doctrine stayed in place for both political parties and led to the Korean and Vietnam wars. The richness and coalitions of democracy with America in the lead finally brought the collapse of USSR in 1991.

History’s attempt to repeat

Enter Vladimir Putin, dictator, who needs little description from me. His aims are clear: He wants the old USSR back and is willing to invade the countries that regained independence upon the collapse of the USSR. Ukraine is the first target.

Putin is promoting and finding allies in America. The Republican party’s choice to become our next Republican President is Donald Trump, a man who praises Putin and has yet to denounce the invasion of Ukraine.

In a display of more arrogance than ignorance (but both), Trump threatens NATO with America’s withdrawal and commits to not defend those countries not in full compliance with the defense requirements and encourage Putin to invade them.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives will not bring a bill up for a vote that will provide needed support to Ukraine threatening their ability to fight Russia and keep their sovereignty.

Republicans eagerly believed a “whistleblower” who turned out to be planting lies for Russia to discredit President Biden using misinformation.

Trump is also a man who promises retribution as his main platform. He plans to replace people of the “deep state” with those loyal to Trump in a version of state-controlled governing.

A growing contingent of the Republican Party is adopting more government control over individual choices, legislating to suppress voting and votes by certain groups, and using the legislative process to support the efforts of Putin to rebuild the USSR.

The “moral right” religious contingent is working federally and in states to limit the reproductive rights of women and ban books that feature people with alternative sexual orientation. The “white is right” contingent bans books that report our country’s history of slavery and racial discrimination as an effort to erase history.

The list is long, daunting, and only beginning. I can only imagine that the man most thrilled by this turn of events to dismantle important freedoms as well as NATO is Putin — or second only to those that seek absolute power to control America.

The silent generation of which many sacrificed life and limbs for democracies and freedoms would not understand the loss of patriotism rooted in our freedoms and opportunities.

I came at the tail end of the silent generation and grew up in a time of common patriotism. Those of us left understand freedoms and opportunities are hard-won and easily lost in complacency.

We cannot be the last pro-democracy generation.

Bertha Cooper, an award-winning featured columnist with the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and is the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 25 years. Reach her at

Bertha Cooper