As about 250 Iowans from National Guard companies in Mason City and Iowa City prepare to head to Poland, retired Admiral Mike Franken, a national security-minded candidate for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, took a break from the campaign trail to chat about Russia’s threat to Ukraine and explain why far-away Ukraine matters to small-town America.
The spry veteran looked beyond the immediate Russian threat to Ukraine, saying, “I’m not so sure Russia’s primary objective has changed appreciably. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s perspective is that if America is diminished in the eyes of the world, then Russia is enhanced.”
“Well, the U.S. isn’t diminished. The world knows our commitment to sound foreign policy objectives has never been stronger,” continued the lanky, wind-grizzled Iowan, “and we are leading with our best…those brave Iowans who are going to Europe are evidence that America is back, and our best days are ahead of us.”
To Franken, Russia is in a quandary. “Look, Vladimir Putin opened with a weak hand by massing more than 180,000 troops around Ukraine,” said Franken. “That means he has about 90,000 troops available to assault a nation of 40 million. That’s big, but it is a paltry force compared to the Ukrainian defenders who have seen this played out before.”
“He has a showy hand, playing before an international audience, but based on a dubious rationale in the first place” chuckled the former three-star admiral, “Putin has little more than bluster, and I’d expect his military commanders are telling him that. The logic behind an invasion is woefully faulty, even in Russian eyes. This won’t go well.”
To Franken, Putin’s effort to suborn Ukraine is a final gasp of a spent society—an economy over-dependent upon resource extraction that is looking at demographic exhaustion within a decade. “The only way for Russia to look good right now is to try and make the U.S. look worse.”
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