How then can we explain the clamor of today's U.S. foreign policy elite to confront, isolate, and cripple Russia, and make of Putin a moral and political leper with whom honorable statesmen can never deal?
What has Putin done to rival the forced famine in Ukraine that starved to death millions, the slaughter of the Hungarian rebels or the Warsaw Pact's crushing of Czechoslovakia?
In Ukraine, Putin responded to a U.S.-backed coup, which ousted a democratically elected political ally of Russia, with a bloodless seizure of the pro-Russian Crimea where Moscow has berthed its Black Sea fleet since the 18th century. This is routine Big Power geopolitics.
And though Putin put an army on Ukraine's border, he did not order it to invade or occupy Luhansk or Donetsk. Does this really look like a drive to reassemble either the Russian Empire of the Romanovs or the Soviet Empire of Stalin that reached to the Elbe?
As for the downing of the Malaysian airliner, Putin did not order that. Sen. John Cornyn says U.S. intelligence has not yet provided any "smoking gun" that ties the missile-firing to Russia.
Intel intercepts seem to indicate that Ukrainian rebels thought they had hit an Antonov military transport plane.
Yet, today, the leading foreign policy voice of the Republican Party, Sen. John McCain, calls Obama's White House "cowardly" for not arming the Ukrainians to fight the Russian-backed separatists.
But suppose Putin responded to the arrival of U.S. weapons in Kiev by occupying Eastern Ukraine. What would we do then?
John Bolton has the answer: Bring Ukraine into NATO.
Translation: The U.S. and NATO should go to war with Russia, if necessary, over Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea, though no U.S. president has ever thought Ukraine itself was worth a war with Russia.
What motivates Putin seems simple and understandable. He wants the respect due a world power. He sees himself as protector of the Russians left behind in his "near abroad." He relishes playing Big Power politics. History is full of such men.
He allows U.S. overflights to Afghanistan, cooperates in the P5+1 on Iran, helped us rid Syria of chemical weapons, launches our astronauts into orbit, collaborates in the war on terror and disagrees on Crimea and Syria.
But what motivates those on our side who seek every opportunity to restart the Cold War?
Is it not a desperate desire to appear once again Churchillian, once again heroic, once again relevant, as they saw themselves in the Cold War that ended so long ago?
Who is the real problem here?