Ten years ago, with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev bent on ending the cold war, his adviser, Georgi Arbatov, told me, "You will see - we will leave you without an enemy, and then what will you do?"
And so it has been. Now, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tells the Russians, "We are on the same side." The one-time Warsaw Pact nations clamor for admission to NATO. North Korea, starving, sues for peace. China, seeking accommodation and entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), moves toward a gesture on human rights - and may have helped to bankroll the Clinton reelection campaign.
And soon the United States may be left with a communist enemies' list of one - tottering Cuba. America is beginning to look ridiculous. President Fidel Castro Ruz's friend, Ted Turner, is planning a CNN bureau in Havana, and other news organizations want to follow. Defying the anti-Cuba boycott, several dozen cigar aficionados from 41 countries are to gather today at a $500-a-plate dinner in Havana's Tropicana Club to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Cohiba cigar. Will they face jail on their return?
It was understandable that when two Cuban exile planes were shot down a year ago this week, President Clinton would feel constrained, for the sake of votes in Florida and New Jersey, to sign the Helms-Burton bill, aimed at tightening the noose around Mr. Castro's neck.
But, although the president has twice postponed the effective date of the most punitive feature - allowing suits in American courts against foreigners benefiting from expropriated property - the law remains official policy.
As a result, some Canadians have boycotted Florida vacations under the slogan, "Helms, no, we won't go." And European governments are seeking to hale the United States before the WTO for violation of the rules. The Clinton administration, which helped to create the WTO, now refuses to appear before it, claiming, with a straight face, that the Cuban embargo is not an economic matter but a matter of national security.
It is almost as if America, fresh out of enemies, wants to replenish the list with friends and allies.
* Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.