The American press has not been paying very much attention to our plans to build a "missile shield" in Europe, not to mention Vladimir Putin's resistance to those plans; but this is a major story for the European press, given that their own backyard is at stake. Our own "party line" has been nicely summarized in the latest SPIEGEL ONLINE report:
The US claims that the planned missile shield is intended to protect the US and its European allies from a ballistic missile attack from a so-called "rogue" state such as Iran.
Putin, on the other hand, just used his annual speech to the Russian parliament (both houses, just like our own State of the Union address) to state his resistance in no uncertain terms:
The rhetoric heated up Thursday as Putin, in his annual speech to both houses of parliament, said he was suspending Russia's obligations under the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, in response to the US missile shield plans. He said the NATO signatories to the treaty were not respecting it, and criticized US plans to locate elements of the anti-missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, saying they create "real dangers and possibly unpleasant surprises."
Is poor Europe caught in the middle of an attempt to revive the Cold War? Is Putin right to be suspicious of the American "party line?" Certainly, if he watches Bill Maher (does HBO now serve Russia?), he is unlikely to believe anything our government says or, for that matter, anything he reads or hears through American mass media! On the other hand he would probably pay attention to what Condoleeza Rice told reporters prior to her meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a NATO-Russia meeting in Oslo:
The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous and everybody knows it.
Excuse me? Did she really use the adjective "Soviet?" Does she view today's Russia as a "front" for a Soviet Union that is still lurking somewhere in the culture of the Kremlin and is still engaged in a Cold War with the United States? Whatever one may think about Freud, this was a very revealing slip of the tongue and hardly the sort of thing that should come to the attention of a Russian leader who probably still has very strong roots in the Cold War! It is chilling to think that one adjective could turn history back some twenty years, and I sure hope that the State Department realizes that some form of damage control is now in order. (Since the meeting with Lavrov has a two-day agenda, there will certainly be plenty of opportunities for damage control.)
When Reagan made his little joke about bombing the Soviet Union, it was a thoughtless act of mouthing off without knowing that a microphone was live. Condi knew her microphone was live; and, worse yet, she knew she was speaking to reporters. So what was she thinking?