We’re approaching full circle from cold war to Perestrioka and collapse of the Soviet Union to re-ignition of cold war fires.  News sources are reporting bluster of the most serious kind issuing from Vlad Putin in response to plans by the US to place ballistic missile interceptors in eastern Europe. 

What motivates the Bush II administration to place anti-ballistic missiles and radar near the eastern frontier of Russia is a perceived ballistic missile threat from so-called rogue states.  The reality of ballistic flight is that missiles launched from the region of Iran will fly over southwestern states of the former Soviet Union (FSU).  In order to best detect and intercept such missiles heading for the EU, equipment would optimally be set up along the trajectory.  Within the logic of strategic planning, the site placement seems consistent with the goal. 

What is less than clear is the excuse for our ham fisted diplomacy with Russia.  Yes, obviously Putin is escalating the bluster and the tensions in a manner that is less than rational. But the decision makers in the Bush administration appear to have been asleep during the cold war.  Evidently the Bush administration didn’t consult with Russia in the run-up to missile site selection.  It was felt that as members of the EU, Poland and the Czech Republic were no longer part of the eastern bloc and therefore Russia’s input was irrelevent.  This was a whopper of a blunder.

The predictable result is that Russia is behaving like Russia, and, outwardly at least, the Bush people seemed slow to pick up on this.  Finally, Bush Jr. is getting some on-the-job-training in eastern bloc politics.

The confrontation with Putin and Russia has begun to spin into something that will force Russia to vigorously protect and promote its interests.  Putin is a lame duck and has to make some kind of stand to satisfy the quiet power brokers behind him.  They can’t accept the placement of ABM systems in Poland anymore than we could allow it in Cuba or Alberta. Doesn’t matter if the initial placement consists of “smart rocks”.  Any missile site can be quietly modified quickly.

There has been a disturbing lack of cultural and economic engagement between the United States and the FSU following the dissolution of the CCCP and the communist party.  This is unfortunate.  Western states should have made a more concerted effort to engage the FSU economically and socially.   

For its part, the US has been curiously lacking in interaction with or even simple curiosity in regard to the progress of the FSU states in their difficult period of reconstruction.  But I think that Russia has been characteristically distrustful of western intentions as well.  Historians will ponder this transition period in world political history and wonder how it could be that even though a society got to push the reset button, the best it could come up with was Putin and the best that the other states could muster was benign neglect.