Western leaders should take caution with Russia

I would strongly caution Western leaders not to restart the Cold War and possibly provoke WWIII with Russia (“Obama urges Putin to pull back,” March 1). There is plenty of evidence (including the recent embarrassing leaked phone conversation of Victoria Nuland plotting “regime change”) that the U.S. and other Western nations have aided and even encouraged this recent round of mob rule and violence in the Ukraine. The most recent violence in the Crimea is a logical reaction to the violent and illegal overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine. 

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO has adopted a very aggressive stance by surreptitiously moving eastward toward Russia’s borders — violating its own charter as a “defensive” alliance — when the organization should have been disbanded long ago. On top of that, NATO and President Obama’s claim that they support the Ukraine’s territorial integrity is hypocritical considering that NATO, led by the U.S., encouraged and participated in the illegal and vicious breakup of Yugoslavia, culminating in the bombing of Serbia in 1999 and theft of Kosovo soon thereafter.

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Vladimir Putin’s rapid mobilization of some 150,000 troops demonstrates that he will not take Western efforts to destabilize Russia’s border regions lightly, as we saw in Georgia some years ago — this could provoke WWIII. Western leaders need to heed this warning. In the war against terrorism, it is far better to have Russia as an ally than foe.

From Dr. Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nev.


US needs reductions in Pentagon spending

We were glad to hear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recognize that with the war in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. needs to cut back the size of its military to between 440,000 and 450,000 troops — more or less the same U.S. troop size before World War II. We can and must support those individuals who have served our country in the past, but the administration and Congress can do a great deal to stop from putting more of our young people in harm’s way.

Congress and the administration have more work to do in the coming months and years to bring down Pentagon spending and redirect funds toward other priorities of our nation. For starters, members of Congress should declare immediately that they will not accept proposals for new increases in Pentagon spending over the next five years.

Hagel’s five-year plan refuses to accept the reality of sequestration and proposes $115 billion in spending over the caps. We are no longer a nation at war and have yet to realize the savings that reflect it. Even if the entirety of sequestration had been left in place, by 2021, the Pentagon would still be spending about as much as it did during the height of the Cold War.

Congress also has a tough job ahead, as Hagel noted when he pleaded with lawmakers to accept a future round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2017. Congress has blocked every Pentagon effort to eliminate excess base capacity through a BRAC commission for many years. The most recent round, in 2005, had high up-front costs that did not match the savings.

The good news is that there are federal funds available to help communities impacted by BRAC. The Department of Defense’s own Office of Economic Adjustment provides financial and technical assistance to communities to aid in the transition. A BRAC in 2017, if modeled off pre-2005 BRACs, could close unused and unnecessary infrastructure and yield long-term savings in the future. 

After over a decade of costly wars, the nation needs major reductions in Pentagon spending, not new increases. When Hagel began to address some of the difficult fiscal issues facing the Pentagon, he said that implementing reform “will require Congress to partner with the Department of Defense in making politically difficult choices.” That’s just it: Congress and the Pentagon have choices, and both should exercise their options by reviewing the Pentagon’s spending practices and determining whether those practices serve the nation’s actual needs.

From Tila Neguse and Jim Cason, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington, D.C.


NJ Gov. Chris Christie playing a losing hand

As a political psychologist, it is my opinion at this time that NJ Gov. Chris Christie knows he must play out a losing hand. Christie’s personality and persona in recent weeks is reflective of an individual trying to overcome extreme odds.

He is aware, as we certainly are, that his abrasive, bully-like and confrontational style can only work against him, especially with regard to staff he incidentally threw under the bus. David Wildstein, Bill Stepien and Bridget Anne Kelly will not go to jail for him. 

Christie must realize that the effects will be devastating, but at the same time he must play with the only cards he possesses. There is no doubt that his denials and phony bravado will be catching up to him very soon. In the end, his personality will have destroyed him, but in the meantime it is a tragedy playing out on national stage.

From Bart Rossi, founder of the Rossi Psychological Group