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November 17, 2017

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In Las Vegas, son of former Soviet leader Khrushchev says Russian rule of law in doubt

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L.E. Baskow

Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, son of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, speaks on the past and future of U.S. relations with Russia while visiting the National Atomic Testing Museum on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

Dr. Sergei Khrushchev Speaks

Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, son of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, speaks on the past and future of U.S. relations with Russia while visiting the National Atomic Testing Museum on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Rule of law in Russia under President Vladimir Putin is an in-doubt as it has been since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 25 years ago, said the son of one of the Soviet Union's most powerful and influential former leaders Saturday in Las Vegas.

"The foundation of a democracy is law," said Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, son of the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. "There are many questions to whether that’s being upheld in Russia right now."

Khrushchev’s 100-minute speech, held at the National Atomic Testing Museum, 755 E. Flamingo Road, featured a summarized history of the relationship between the United States and Russia from the eastern European nation’s revolution in 1917 to the current regime of Putin.

Besides a brief outlook on current events, the majority of Saturday’s chat — attended by about 200 people — centered on Nikita Khrushchev, who Sergei Khrushchev lived together with during the former Soviet leader’s 11-year reign from 1953 to 1964.

Known throughout the world for his tough-guy demonstrations — perhaps greatest exemplified during a November 1956 address to Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow, in which he infamously said “We will bury you” — Nikita Khrushchev purposely overstated Russia’s capabilities to earn the respect of the United States and the rest of the world, his son said.

While the ultimate goal was peace and coexistence with the U.S., who Sergei Khrushchev said behave “like the police of the world” while undermining their allies and leaving behind other nations in their economic wake, Soviet leaders took initiative “to not show fear or weakness.”

But he acknowledged that Russia has never been, even today, “near as close” to the strength of its Western counterpart.

Khrushchev also spoke about a joint lunar proposal between his father and former U.S. president John F. Kennedy to have the U.S. and Soviet Union cooperate on an expedition to the moon. While such a proposal was “welcomed” by Khrushchev, the former Soviet leader also feared the joint cooperation would expose Russia’s economic weaknesses and undeveloped aeronautics program.

“Really, my father was scared it would show (the U.S.) how weak they were,” Khrushchev said.

A similar mentality led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Khrushchev alleged Saturday. While Cuba, a close ally of the former Soviet Union was invaded by the U.S. through the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, he argued that his father ordered nuclear missiles to be placed on the island nation over a year later to protect their ally from further invasion. The protection, in turn, showed strength to the U.S., Sergei Khrushchev said.

But in the mind of the Russian scholar, the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s best exemplified “the difference in culture and values” between the United States and the former Soviet Union. While then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev saw the ending as a transition to becoming “allies and friends” with the United States, the American mindset led by then-president Ronald Reagan was that the United States “had won the war,” Khrushchev alleged.

He emphasized the key to future prosperity and peace between the two nations is a similar demonstration of decorum and respect.

“We cannot be a policeman for the world and we cannot punish everyone we don't like,” said Khrushchev, who now lives in the United States. “We have to learn to appreciate and to bring as many countries as possible on our side.”