New Cold War: A revised Russian military doctrine identifies NATO as Moscow's No. 1 threat, as the Obama administration announced it was returning control of 15 bases in Europe back to the host governments.
It re-emphasizes that NATO, notwithstanding President Obama's "flexibility" and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's "reset" button, is the No. 1 strategic threat facing Russia.
We are reminded of Obama's rebuke of Mitt Romney in the third presidential debate, when the GOP nominee was ridiculed for listing, in response to a question, Russia as our No. 1 strategic geopolitical threat.
"The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because ... the Cold War's been over for 20 years," said the president who promised the Russians more flexibility as he disarmed the United States.
Apparently Putin does not share the view that the frigid era of confrontation is over.
The latest Russian strategic doctrine, the fourth since the end of a Soviet Union whose demise Putin has mourned and whose territories he seeks to reclaim, comes after the 2008 war against the former Soviet republic of Georgia, its annexation of Crimea and its creeping invasion of Ukraine.
Russian strategic doctrine was revised by Boris Yeltsin after the USSR's demise. It was revised again in 2000 under Putin, and again in 2010 by Dmitry Medvedev.
Some would argue the newest incarnation merely gives shape for the first time to Russian neighbors' fears and has a few disturbing new wrinkles that bear watching in light of a staggering Russian military renaissance.
The doctrine announces Russia intends the "lawful use of the armed forces . . . to ensure the protection of its citizens outside the Russian federation."
This was the pretext Moscow used to seize the Crimea and Nazi Germany's excuse to annex Austria and the Sudetenland prior to World War II. This is not good news for the Baltic states NATO is obligated to defend.
The new wrinkle is the announcement of the possible use of precision-guided weapons, including ground and air-launched cruise missiles, "as part of strategic deterrent measures" to counter a NATO that has expanded to Russia's western borders.
Last month, as part of a military drill, Russia airlifted state-of-the art Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, between NATO states Poland and Lithuania. A similar move in Obama's first term preceded his decision to abandon ground-based missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic.
As Russia ramps up its strategic position in Europe, the Pentagon, under orders to reduce projected spending by a trillion dollars over the next decade, announced on Thursday that it was ending operations at RAF Mildenhall, north of London.
This home to tanker, reconnaissance and special operations aircraft and 14 other sites in Europe will be transferred to local control, generally reducing the support infrastructure that might be needed in any renewed confrontation with Moscow.
This might not be the best time to beat our swords into plowshares. Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the new doctrine is, "at the very least, an honest acknowledgment that brings us back to the situation before 1991."
That situation would be a resurrected Cold War and a Russian bear once again loose in the woods.
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