Reflections on the Nation's Leader

Reflections on the Nation's Leader
The Leader

He’s spent his career in the halls of Government. He was the number two to a head of state who, although charismatic, was also highly controversial. This experience prepared him for his nation’s highest office.

Still, he’s one of the oldest leaders ever to serve in that position, so questions about his health remain at the forefront of his legacy.

Early in his term, he was forced to recognize the bitter failure of his country’s incursion into Afghanistan. He finally ordered the complete withdrawal of all military from that country. No doubt this will do down as a blot on his record.

Nonetheless, the country’s military continued strong.

The economy is always a key metric in evaluating any leader, and the record is not so good here. Economic growth declined to between 1% and 2%, some of the lowest growth rates post-World War II. Some analysts have spoken of “stagnation.”

Relations with China have deteriorated dramatically, and unless things settle down on that front, a confrontation is likely.

For a long time, there have been rumblings in the Capital that the Leader relies too heavily on his cadre of close advisors—a “brain trust,” if you will, of supporters who have been with the Leader for years and who some feel are making many of the country's most critical decisions.

Perhaps most important for the average citizen is the perception that things are getting more complex. The cost of living has escalated, and there is genuine concern that consumer goods may be less available in the near future.

Leonid Brezhnev.

Leonid Brezhnev

I think this is a fair evaluation of the nation’s Chief Executive. As you’ve no doubt guessed, I’m speaking of Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and General Secretary of the Communist Party for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Did you think I was talking of someone else?

The parallels are astonishing, aren’t they?

You can’t help but notice the close similarity between the Soviet Brezhnev of 40 years ago and America’s Biden of today. Everything we spoke of was the conditions of the old Soviet Union under then Chairman and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, who led the USSR for 18 years from 1964 until his death in 1982. Ten years after his death, the Soviet Empire would fall, replaced by the current Russian Federation.

One wonders if we risk a similar fate.

Both countries project their influence across the globe, with militaries that were/are stretched to their limits. Many historians consider these two countries the closest thing to an empire in the modern world.

Interestingly, Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires, and it has collected two more scalps from both the Soviets and the Americans. President Biden’s ordered withdrawal was among the lowest points in his Presidential record.

Chairman Brezhnev and President Biden set the tone for their administrations in their first days in office. Brezhnev immediately set about arresting any political opposition in a move that brought back the oppression of the Bolsheviks. It is estimated that Brezhnev had 5,000 political prisoners incarcerated within months of assuming office.

Whether by coincidence or happenstance, the Biden Administration saw more than 1,000 January 6 demonstrators jailed.

Few may remember that the Soviets and China had an ongoing border dispute beginning in 1969. Brezhnev spearheaded the Soviet response, but the two communist countries remained bitter enemies throughout Brezhnev’s tenure.

Incredibly, the Ukraine War and the EU and American sanctions against Russia have drawn Russia and China back together. Today, China and Russia are the leaders of the BRICS movement, the most significant economic challenger to the American Dollar-based international financial system since World War II.

Additionally, America faces a Chinese challenge in the Taiwan Straights. And like Brezhnev, Biden is not hesitant to rattle his missiles. Speaking at the recent U.S. Military Academe’s Commencement, Biden said:

“The U.S. is standing up for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait…, he said. “I have always been willing to use force when required to protect our nation, our allies, our core interest. When anyone targets American troops, we will deliver justice to them.”

Like Brezhnev, Biden is dedicated to diplomacy at the end of a gun.

The old Soviet Union maintained one of the strongest armies in the world throughout Brezhnev’s tenure. Indeed, some analysts believe that the Soviet Military may have surpassed the American military capacity in the mid-1970s.

However, by the end of Brezhnev’s leadership, it became clear that American military technology had surged ahead of the Soviets. President Reagan challenged the country’s scientists and engineers to produce an effective anti-missile system. Dubbed “Star Wars” after the popular movie, many believe this was a chief motivation in the Soviets' decision to go to the negotiation table and seek an overall reduction in the two nations' nuclear weapons.

Three years after Brezhnev’s death, the Americans and Soviets signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This was the first time that the two nuclear powers agreed to reduce the number of atomic weapons in their inventories.

Today, the tables may have turned. Many believe that the West has little defense against the new generation of Russian hypersonic missiles. Although a great deal of controversy is associated with these new missiles, several European observers claim that two Kinzhal hypersonic missiles may have defeated the American Patriot Anti-missile system in Ukraine.

I cannot determine whether these claims are viable or not. However, we all know that technology, especially military technology, continues to advance. What’s inconceivable today will likely become reality tomorrow.

Many historians point to Brezhnev’s health as a key reason the INF Treaty was not signed during his lifetime. Although he was old and sick, no one outside his immediate circle was allowed to know that. Brezhnev had assembled a close cadre of advisors around him to help guide the country and prohibit any outsider from learning just how ill he was.

Brezhnev suffered from a series of ailments. But it was a massive heart attack that finally took his life on November 10, 1982. He had remained in power to the very end. Perhaps it is a glorious way for a leader to go. However, for the country, he left a legacy of economic stagnation and political decline that ultimately contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today, most in Russia point to his leadership as the beginning of 30 years of hardship for the average citizen. Only within the last few years has the Russian Federation regained prominence and is approaching its past.

A feeble and dying leader had remained in power long past his prime.

Rigid in his views, he could not grasp the changing world dynamics. Brezhnev had trapped the Soviets in their past. Only when a new generation took the reins of power could the new Russian Federation fully meet the challenges of the 21st Century.


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Jamie Larson