Tuesday, June 05, 2007

After the fear is gone

Nostalgia is abound at the G-8 where Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to retarget Russian missiles at Europe if the United States goes through with plans to include former Soviet satellites Poland and The Czech Republic in a missile defense system.

The system would ostensibly protect Europe from countries like Iran, but Putin is crying foul because such rogue states lack the kind of missiles which could strike Europe. Although that logic runs into a bit of a ditch when one considers that missile defense systems tend to take a really long time to come into being (if they ever come into being) and who knows what the distant future holds?

Nevertheless, I don't think Putin's point was to be completely logical, but rather the Russian President --buoyed by petrol dollars and America's perceived foreign policy weakness -- would like to rekindle a new cold war with the United States and the West.

With the US/USSR rivalry of the second half of the twentieth century representing the apex of Russian influence in world affairs, it makes sense that Putin, a proud former Soviet, would want to do such a thing.

It also always struck me how quickly, during the time of glasnost and the fall of the Berlin wall, Russia went from being sworn enemy number one of the United States to a nation worthy of sympathy, support and even its own outpost in Brooklyn. While I'm sure, at the time, these gestures were reassuring to the Russian and the Soviet people, years later they probably seem more and more humiliating.

Putin's problem is that to achieve his goal of Cold War redux he has to make America fear the Russian bear once again -- and adjust its foreign policy accordingly.

I've found once you genuinely get to the point where you have overcome your fear of something -- whether it be heights, creaking night time sounds or transcontinental countries extending over much of northern Eurasia -- it is very difficult to ever be afraid of that thing again.

In his early dealings with Putin, President George W. Bush, in a move more appropriate for sizing up a stray dog than conducting international diplomacy, looked into his counterpart's soul and saw good.

This was further proof that, like the kid whose heart once raced when he saw a wandering dog but will now gently pet the strange beast, the United States was completely over its once predominant fear of Russia.

And there will need to be a couple of real bites -- the kind Putin won't be willing to take -- for the fear to return.

No comments: