Opinion: Uzbekistan,  Leipzig and Budapest; How the World Has Changed

FILE – In this Dec. 8, 1987 file photo U.S. President Ronald Reagan, right, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev exchange pens during the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signing ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, D.C. Gorbachev’s translator Pavel Palazhchenko stands in the middle. Trump’s announcement that the United States would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty brought sharp criticism on Sunday Oct. 21, 2018, from Russian officials and from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with President Ronald Reagan. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty, File)

The World is a much different place today thanks to Ronald Wilson Reagan. On his Monday show, conservative host, David Webb** mentioned that he had an upcoming visit to Budapest, Hungary. One of his callers chatted him up about different places he need to visit while he was there. As I listened to the back and forth, I suddenly recalled three instances I was personally involved in that made me realize deep down in my gut, just how the World has changed since I graduated from the United States Military Academy. At that time I believed that if I was go off to war, it would be to help repel Warsaw Pact Forces led by the Soviet Union as they barreled through the Fulda Gap, attempting to push NATO forces into the sea as the Germans had done at Dunkirk.

Then came President Ronald Reagan. Ronaldus Magnus promptly upended the U.S. policy of “containment” in regards to the Soviet Union, substituting instead a policy of “rollback.” He did so on all fronts, using our economic might and advantage over the Soviets to ramp up our defense spending to the point where they could not keep up. He effectively spent them out of the game, or in poker parlance, he “bought the pot.”

I remember well the reunification of Germany. Like many people, I watched on TV a year later as the Berlin Wall was taken down by crowds of celebrating Germans. I’ve had more than a few friends tell me about vacations they’ve taken in Russia or other former Warsaw Pact countries such as Hungary. Yet I really didn’t appreciate what had happened down in my gut.

It took until 10 years later to really hit me as to the magnitude of what Reagan had accomplished. It was approximately 3 weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the failed attempt on the White House (Flight 93) that I had my first real indication that the World had indeed changed.

I was in my unit’s operations center processing message traffic as the United States Military gathered forces to avenge the attack and bring some terrorists to justice. One type of message I frequently saw was called a Request for Forces (RFF). This is the specific method a Combatant Commander such as the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) would use to formally request specific forces from Department of Defense.

At that time, USCENTCOM was cranking out at least 50 RFFs each day. One of them really got my attention. This particular RFF was asking on behalf of the CENTCOM Commander, for 3 of a certain type unit, not later than 30 days from the date on the request. What really got my attention was the two letter designation for the unit destination, “UZ.” I had to go look it up…Uzbekistan! We were about to send U.S. Forces to a base in Uzbekistan, and not as a forced entry operation, but with that former Warsaw Pact country’s permission. We were going to base U.S. troops in a former Warsaw Pact country!

The second time, was a couple years later. I had hitched a ride back to the United States from Kuwait on the R & R Bird, a special chartered aircraft used to rotate troops home for a two week break. Along the way we stopped for fuel in Leipzig, in the former country of East Germany, another Warsaw Pact nation. We were delayed on the ground overnight for a maintenance issue. The airline support staff were very gracious, putting all 200 some odd G.I.’s up overnight in a warehouse with cots, food delivered and a sound truck playing music. What was fascinating to me, was that as an American officer in uniform, I could actually wander about freely on a base that at one time we needed satellite imagery or agents on the ground risking their lives, to ascertain the goings on therein. Here I was snapping pictures like a tourist without a care in the World.

My third epiphany was about a year later and again involved an aircraft maintenance issue requiring an overnight stay. This time the airline put 200 odd troops up overnight in a hotel in downtown Budapest, Hungary, yet a third former Warsaw Pact nation. I was well aware up in my brain housing group, that this was no issue, as Hungary had gained its independence from the Soviet Union’s hegemony with the last Soviet troops leaving in 1991, over ten years earlier. However, As an American Army Officer in uniform standing outside the hotel that night, my gut was telling a different story. Pieces of my undergraduate studies came back to me, recalling that Budapest was ground zero for Cold War hostilities between the United States and the USSR. Budapest was where U.S and Soviet spies met to kill each other. Yet there I was standing there as locals walked by, flashing friendly smiles.

The World has changed indeed. In 1980 as a freshly commissioned Army Second Lieutenant, the fight I was expecting, indeed the one I had trained for, was supposed to be against the Soviet led, Warsaw Pact. 26 years later, there I was, standing in uniform on what had been Warsaw Pact territory, the Soviet Union long dissolved, yet without a major land war in Europe. I would offer a thought to David Webb—Enjoy your trip to Budapest, thanks to the genius of President Ronald Wilson Reagan.

**David Webb can be found on SiriusXM Channel 125 (Patriot) M-F from 9:00AM-Noon

Mike Ford
Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters. 
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