Vladimir Putin has been blazing a path towards centralizing all power within the Russian government under his and his appointed successors' control. He hand-picked Dmirty Medvedev to replace him as President who in turn, announced that he will appoint Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister. Pure power consolidation tactic. The Russian elections were less than fair to say the least and I hope that the Russian people can overcome this obvious heavy handed tactic by Putin and his political allies. The Russians worked hard to overcome the shackles of Communism and re-gain their freedom and we should help them in their quest towards democratic reforms. It seems however, that Putin has moved from being a somewhat moderate leader to a level just below that of a dictator.
You'll recall a few days ago, US war planes were assembled to fend off Russian bombers that were approaching the U.S.S. Nimitz while it was on patrol in the Pacific. This is reason to be concerned indeed, as one of the bombers had actually flown directly over the carrier, "buzzing" it twice during this occurrence. No military actions came of this, no shots fired, etc, but it is worth noting. I remember seeing documentaries about the Cold War where US and Soviet military would routinely "buzz" each other or interact each other, playing antagonist with each other without it ever coming to head and shots being fired. If memory serves me correct, it was especially true with submarine fleets. That being said, it would appear Russia is heading towards more Cold War tactics and actively seeking to engage the United States in every realm that it can.
During Putin's "Farewell Speech," he assailed the U.S. as having touched off a new arm's race by having the audacity to seek to implement missile defense in Eastern Europe that would have positive effects for the vast majority of the world, serving as a buffer against the increasing dangerous Iranian regime in particular as well as the still dangerous North Koreans. Rather than embracing and seeking greater cooperation with NATO and Western Nations, Putin's policies reverted to the tactics of the old Soviet Union and took to seeing the expansion of NATO into Eastern European nations, nations that actively sought membership in the Organization, as a direct threat to Russia. While Putin will hit talking points of respecting Russia's sovereignty, elections, and internal decisions, apparently that idea does not extend to the nations who, on their own, for what they determined to be the best course for their nations, sought out NATO membership. While Putin should be commended for hitting on the points of economic development and fighting terrorism in Russia, it is disappointing and a reason for pause that he would threaten the world with a new arms race unless Russia is appeased at the cost of denying other nation's the right of self-destiny in seeking out alliances.
Prefaced by the information above, it becomes even more imperative to recognize the great threat that may be arising as today Putin announced that it will being to target its offensive nuclear missile capabilities towards Ukraine if Ukraine presses ahead with NATO membership and become part of the U.S. missile shield program. In response to a defensive deployment of the missile shield, Russia is essentially saying that it will target any nation with offensive missiles, that is threaten to possibly hit nations with nuclear missiles should said nations not comply to Russia's demands. For all the wrongful claims that many Democrats lobby against President Bush, imagine their reaction if he had announced a decision to begin targeting our offensive arsenal at Iran, let alone Russia. Yet, the Democrats have been dreadful silent with regard to this issue. It is very troubling that Russia is pursuing this path.
I'll leave you with Sen. McCain's statements from back before the Iowa caucuses in which he is asked about Vladimir Putin and Russia in general. It now sounds almost prophetic and I believe that under a John McCain administration we will be much better situated to meet not just this threat, but other political and military threats to our Republic.