By 1988, Ronald Reagan, who had famously branded the Soviet Union "an evil empire," was striding through Red Square arm-in-arm with Mikhail Gorbachev. Russians were pounding both men on the back.
They had just signed the greatest arms reduction agreement in history -- eliminating all Soviet SS-20s targeted on Europe, in return for removal of the Pershing and cruise missiles Reagan had deployed in Europe.
"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!" wrote Wordsworth about his first hearing the news of the fall of the Bastille.
Many of us felt that way then.
Within three years, the Berlin Wall had come down, the puppet regimes of Eastern Europe had been swept away, Germany was reunited, the Red Army had gone home, the Soviet Empire had vanished and the Soviet Union had broken up into 15 nations. The Baltic republics were free. Ukraine was free.
Yet, on the eve of the G-8 summit, Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia would re-target missiles on NATO. We must, he said, counter Bush's decision to put anti-missile missiles in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic. Why are we doing this?
The United States says the ABM system in Europe is to defend against an Iranian attack. But Tehran has no atom bomb and no ICBM.
We appear to be headed for a second Cold War -- and, if we are, responsibility will not fully rest with the Kremlin. For among those who have mismanaged the relationship are presidents Clinton and Bush II, the baby boomers who appear to have kicked away the fruits of a Cold War victory won by their Greatest Generation predecessors.
How did they do it?
-- When the Red Army went home from Eastern Europe, the United States, in violation of an understanding with Moscow, began to move NATO east. We have since brought into our military alliance six former members of the Warsaw Pact and three former provinces of the Soviet Union: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
-- Anti-Russia hawks are now pushing to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. If they succeed, we could be dragged into future confrontations with a nuclear-armed Russia about who has sovereignty over the Crimea and whether South Ossetia should be part of Georgia.
Are these vital U.S. interests worth risking a war? Why are we moving a U.S.-led military alliance into the front yard and onto the side porch of a country with thousands of nuclear weapons? Would we accept any commensurate Chinese or Russian move in the Caribbean?
-- After Moscow gave us a green light to use the former Soviet republics of Central Asia to base U.S. forces for the Afghan war, the United States has sought permanent bases there. Russia and China have now united to throw us out of their back yard.
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