Oliver North

WASHINGTON -- "The lion and the bear are hunting the eagle." That's how a refugee from Tehran put it when he called me this week about recent developments in his homeland. The lion to which my friend referred was on the coat of arms of nearly every Persian king for more than a thousand years. The bear, of course, is imperial Russia. We're the bird.

It's an apt metaphor. Vladimir Putin, Moscow's current czar, is behaving like a bear awakened from hibernation -- hungry and territorial. His recent words condemning U.S. foreign policy are mirrored by actions, both overt and covert, aimed at undermining U.S. security. While eschewing animal symbols on their flag, the Islamic radicals running Iran's theocracy act like lions on the prowl -- dangerous to any prey. And while the simile is unlikely in nature -- the lions and bears in my friend's parable have certainly teamed up to hunt the eagle. The only trouble with the allegory is that the United States is acting more like an ostrich than an eagle. A few examples:

Last week Putin told European leaders gathered in Munich that "the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way." He claimed the United States is forcing weaker nations to "acquire weapons of mass destruction" and defended Moscow's recent sale of $700 million worth of TOR-M1 anti-aircraft batteries to Iran. In an effort to sound less like a bear and more like a Democrat running for the U.S. presidency, he declared that "wars, local and regional conflicts, have only grown in number" and charged America with taking "unilateral, illegitimate actions" in Iraq and elsewhere that "have not managed to resolve any problems, but made them worse."

This week, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's strategic missile forces, warned the United States against installing anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defenses in Eastern Europe. Construction is scheduled to begin on an ABM interceptor site in Poland and on a radar array in the Czech Republic later this year. Both are components of a U.S.-NATO defense system to shield against a nuclear attack. In a clear-cut effort to intimidate the Czechs and the Poles to reconsider their participation, Solovtsov suggested that Russia may abrogate the 1987 Nuclear Forces Treaty and observed that Russia's "strategic missile forces will be capable of targeting these facilities."

Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.