A retaliatory Russia just might aim its nuclear missiles at Europe if the United States places an anti-missile defense shield there to protect allies.
That’s the rhetorical bomb dropped by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the G-8 summit in Germany this week, and here is what I suggest President Bush say in private to Putin when the two run into each other during the conference.
"Vladimir, my erstwhile buddy, I once said I had looked in your soul and found you trustworthy. I’ve been looking again and now see something dark and dangerous. That statement about missiles — wow! That was like saying during a disagreement with a colleague that you’re thinking of pulling out your .45 automatic and pointing it at his head. That’s not what you call civilized discourse, Vladimir. That’s not OK.
"I am sorry you are upset about the European anti-missile defense shield we are proposing to build, but despite what you say, it is no threat to Russia. You know as well as I do the shield would have no offensive capability. It’s mainly meant to afford more protection to our NATO friends from one of your favorite armament customers, Iran. Officials of your own country have cited the evidence that Iran is planningto build nuclear weapons, and you know what a madman the president of Iran is. Just the other day, he said the ‘countdown’ to the destruction of Israel had begun.
"You want to decrease the need for missile shields in this world we live in, Vladimir? I would suggest you assist more meaningfully in keeping Iran from moving ahead with its plans. How about ending Russia’s resistance to some really tough United Nations sanctions?
"My worries about you don’t end there, Vladimir. With the end of the Soviet Union, the world had great hopes for a peaceful, increasingly democratic Russia, and you have let us down.
"You made parliament a snap for you to control. You ended the election of regional governors. You have made press freedom something of a joke — there are more assassinations of journalists in your country than any place besides Iraq and Colombia, and you don’t investigate.
"You waged vicious war in Chechnya. You have played the tyrant with neighboring countries and you have used your oil resources as a club to get your way in Europe.
"Of course, that oil has also provided great wealth to Russia, and even though you are doing little otherwise to serve the economy of a people you continue to oppress, you are popular and getting away with your crimes. But you are not going to continue getting away with them, Vladimir.
"The fact is, the United States needs Russia a lot less than you need us. Keep it up, and maybe you won’t stay in the G-8. Maybe Russia won’t stay in the World Trade Organization. If you can’t be a responsible world player, you just may cease to be much of a player at all. You still have nukes, but you are not the Soviet Union anymore, and we can cut you off to the point of Russia being far less a factor in world affairs. We are not talking about another Cold War. We are talking about a cold shoulder.
"Now why don’t you start talking like a statesman instead oflike a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sound-alike? We can work together to make your country, mine and the rest of the world better, and when we get together the next time, maybe I will again look into your soul and be impressed by what I find."
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.