It's been nearly twenty years since the Cold War ended. Some people have forgotten what it was like and a lot of people aren't old enough to remember. There was a time when an American politician could run an ad like this one and it would have an impact, even though it was possible that you might see this ad running immediately before. Even when they were quite rightly considered the focus of evil in the modern world, we've always been a little ambivalent about the Russians.
I've read a lot in the past few days about the events taking place in Georgia. It is quite possible that Vladimir Putin is using the current situation as a test case of the feasibility for reassembing the old Soviet empire. It is not coincidental that, even as his tanks have rolled toward Tbilisi, he has issued threats against Ukraine and Poland. Nor is it surprising that people are beginning to wonder if the bear is in the woods again. Bear tracks are often disguised as the ruts that tanks create and in this case, Putin isn't even trying to be subtle.
Things are different this time, though. The bear's victims are visible and vocal. And those who can contain the bear are active. The Germans are willing to support Georgia's entry into NATO. The Ukrainians are supporting missile defense. After a slow start, W is engaged. And what appeared to be a victory for the Russians may become Pyrrhic at best, and quite possibly a strategic disaster, especially if the missile defenses appear in precincts near Warsaw and Kiev.
It's been evident that the West has been divided for much of this decade. It's been easy to blame W for this and our portside friends have not hesitated to do so. But things are changing. France and Germany are under new management these days and their governments seem to understand that the greatest dangers they face emanate from places other than Crawford, Texas. As the hated Bush leaves the stage, the other actors seem to be understanding that they cannot be critics or spectators much longer. This is encouraging, because the bear we've seen this week is not the only one in the woods. The next president must understand all this. I have reason to believe at least one candidate does.