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    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    The Montreal Gazette on The New Cold War

    Just a quick post to highlight a nice review of my book in this weekend's Montreal Gazette. It's flattering stuff, made all the nicer by the fact it was written by Levon Sevunts, a top foreign reporter in his own right who knows the former Soviet Union first-hand.

    If you've never read a book about the politics in the former Soviet Union, make an exception for this one. And if you're interested in post-Soviet politics, then Mark MacKinnon's The New Cold War is a must.

    It's a real-life political drama, a non-fiction page-turner that will keep you up at night and provoke some very big questions about Western policy vis-a-vis Russia and its former satellites.

    Read the rest of the review here.

    Three months until the U.S. release. I'll be in New York and Washington pimping it in late September, if any readers are from that little corner of the world...

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    The eternal (losing) candidate

    What is Grigoriy Yavlinsky thinking? Can he really be this vain and out of touch with reality?

    The Moscow Times is reporting today that Yavlinsky, who ran and lost (badly) for the presidency in 1996 and 2000 is planning another run in 2008.

    Just two weeks ago I was celebrating the fact that Russia's liberal opposition had finally got its act together and was apparently ready to throw its support behind a single candidate, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. I tempered my enthusiasm by noting we hadn't yet heard from Yavlinsky, but assumed that even he wasn't blind enough to the best interests of the country to mess up what was clearly a good thing.

    The question Russians have to answer in the next election should be a clear one: "Is the country heading the right way under Putin and Putinism, or has too much been sacrificed in the name of stability?" A fair and open race that boiled down to the Kremlin's candidate (who increasingly appears to be deputy prime minister and ex-KGB man Sergei Ivanov) against Kasyanov, representing The Other Russia, would put that question provocatively before the public.

    (For more on Ivanov, see the profile in London's Sunday Times newspaper. It's written by Mark Franchetti, who is one of the best scribes in the Moscow-based foreign press corps.)

    Yavlinsky getting involved, however, will allow the Kremlin to get away with portraying the various liberal candidates (Yukos chairman Viktor Gerashchenko and Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky are also both toying with the idea of candidacy) as a bunch of Yeltsin era rabble. Look for the Communists and the far right to be built up so that the Kremlin can once more convince the West that its Putinism or the real baddies.

    Yavlinsky, in his two presidential runs, has received 7.4 and 5.8 per cent of the vote. Those numbers will never make him president, but that support might mean the difference between Kasyanov getting into a second round against whoever the Kremlin puts forward.

    Yavlinsky is a decent man, who might have been Russian president if the Russian people admired him even half as much as the Western media did in the 1990s. Now, however, someone has to convince him that his moment is well past and it's time to put the country ahead of his ego.

    While I'm talking about the 2008 presidential race, I should note that Kommersant had an interesting piece over the weekend that suggested that it might not be Ivanov who ends up as the Kremlin's chosen one. The article quotes Kremlin aide Igor Shuvalov suggesting that "Operation Successor" may yet yield someone other than Ivanov or Dmitriy Medvedev, the other presumed frontrunner for Putin's blessing.

    "People are talking of two potential candidates, but my president might yet surprise everyone, and by the end of this year you might learn of yet another potential figure," Shuvalov said. "We have two active individuals - they are the senior deputy prime ministers, with different spheres of responsibility. Both are very liberal-minded, although one is a former KGB officer. Either of them could win. Personally, however, I think that yet another figure may emerge."

    Very interesting. Though I have to wonder if he isn't talking about Vladimir Vladimirovich himself.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Me and Viktor Andriyovych

    As promised, the full transcript of my interview yesterday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (that's me on the far right in the photo, looking studious, courtesy of the presidential press service):

    MM: The question that a lot of people in the West are wondering is, do you believe Ukraine’s political crisis is now over, or is it on hold until the elections when it will begin again?

    VY: I’ll start with the following: the plan has already been adopted regarding all the issues to solve the political crisis.

    After the events that took place… in March, the political corruption, the only constitutional way to settle the crisis was early elections. All the political participants in the crisis acknowledged that, and all the political parties approved the date of Sept. 30 [for the elections]. All the decisions are made to hold the elections, from the standpoint of funding, as well as the amendments necessary to the legislation. So this is the essence of the answer: the political crisis is over.

    There was a way to settle it through means of early elections. On the basis of this concept, there is some occasional speculation [that elections will not be held], triggered by some political parties, for instance the Socialists and the Communists. The key task for them is to use the parliamentary tribune as much as possible.

    Even though they acknowledge the fact that it is an illegitimate parliament, they’re still ready to attend the sessions because this is the only way for them to keep at least some kind of support in Ukrainian society. And they are threatening, blackmailing the Party of Regions to leave the coalition [government] because they are against [early elections].

    I’ve sent a verbal note to embassies around the world that the parliament is invalid, and all its decisions are also invalid. It has no impact on domestic or international relations.

    This is only a political show, and nothing more.

    The main thing is that all Ukrainian politicians have managed to settle probably one of the most complicated political crises ever in Ukrainian history, in a democratic way. I think this is the main victory.

    MM: Why did you feel it was necessary, in the middle of this crisis, to take over the Interior Ministry’s troops?

    VY: I haven’t given a single instruction to reign in any internal troops beyond the demands of the current situation.

    At the end of May, Kyiv was celebrating City Day with activities that involved a lot of people in town, and also there was the Ukrainian soccer final the same day. As a rule, when such events take place, normally 2,000 to 3,000 Interior Ministry troops are brought into the city to maintain order.

    It’s normally done without the President, and this is done every single year. The fact that 2,000 troops was sent here to Kyiv was just due to that.

    But somebody started a rumour that it was the President’s instructions. You should know that all instructions from the President to the military forces should be in writing, and I have not taken any written decisions.

    The case was the following: I was meeting with law enforcement officers and military people almost every day, and persuaded them to keep their distance from any political events.

    My main goal was to use any kind of military resistance or any application of force. This is not the way to resolve the crisis, and there’s nothing to it. This was only political rumours and speculation.

    MM: In the elections on Sept. 30, what question is Ukraine facing? Is it similar to 2004, West versus East, or is it democracy versus something else?

    VY: I think the key issues will be around yesterday’s versus today’s politics…. In the essence of it, democratic values and the establishment of political order on democratic principles, this is the package that the democratic parties are going with.

    MM: And what’s the other side offering, in your mind?

    VY: The preservation of what exists, and what has been in the past. Untransparent markets and privatizations. The political control over the system of justice, and the prosecutor’s office. It’s also the politicization of the Central Elections Commission and the Constitutional Court. It’s the refusal of pro-Western policy.

    MM: Do you, in this struggle, still see the hand of Moscow, the hand of the Kremlin, behind the Communists, the Socialists and the Party of Regions, as in 2004?

    VY: I would say that the left forces, the left parties, are pretty much oriented to Moscow’s position. But in any case, this has already passed. Whether somebody wants to accept it or not, this is the old take.

    Moscow also needs a predictable Ukraine, and Ukraine’s future is not now decided by Socialists and Communists.

    Although, through activation of those forces you can break the process. But this has nothing to do with returning Ukraine back to what it was.

    MM: Do you think Moscow wants to break the process now? Or are they more hands-off than in the past?

    VY: I don’t exclude the fact that there are some political forces in Russia that want to keep the old political order in Ukraine…. But I emphasize that we are an independent state, a sovereign country. It is us who determine our domestic and foreign policies.
    We respect their international role and traditions, but this is actually our politics…. I’m all for building good neighbourly relations with Russia, on the basis of equality and respect for the sovereignty of the state.

    MM: Last week, our newspaper was one of those that met with President Putin in Moscow and he, among other things, threatened to target Europe with missiles in response to the American missile shield. Do you think these sort of comments should be taken seriously? Are they rhetoric? Are you worried about the new breach between Russia and the West?

    VY: I think the President of Russia is not kidding. But I wouldn’t like to make any further comment than that. It’s beyond my competence.

    I’d like to express my own position… The recent events, I think, show to everyone that we have quite a creaky security balance and this really triggers some concerns and could be really painful.

    It’s becoming more and more apparent that the best response to all the challenges regarding defense and security policy can only be given through a collective system of defense. And it’s becoming more apparent that leaders of states have to pay more attention to this fact, particularly building the common system of collective defense.

    MM: Just to be clear, are you speaking there of including Russia in this collective?

    VY: Frankly speaking, I would not exclude it, for this is only about the entrance of a certain country.

    I remember from history when the Soviet Union was applying to join the North Atlantic bloc. I think that any model that will have resistance behind it will trigger concerns. It will very hard to build any stability on such a basis.

    MM: Do you agree with the missile shield currently proposed for Eastern Europe, based in Poland and the Czech Republic, or would you rather see a system based in a place that includes Ukraine in the shield?

    VY: Our defense and security doctrine is formally determined in law. And a key aspect of this doctrine is to provide Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and the North Atlantic bloc.

    If there’s one thing it emphasizes, it’s Ukraine’s intention to be integrated into the collective security system within the framework of the North Atlantic bloc.

    MM: Are you worried about Russian objections to that? They, of course, view NATO as an anti-Russian alliance still.

    VY: I’m sure that Ukraine is ready to give all the necessary responses to any of the questions that might arrive, and to emphasize that this is a policy that is not against somebody, this is not a policy that is determining any threat.

    According to national legislation, this is the policy that is most suitable for the security and defense of this nation.

    MM: Next year, of course, there are presidential elections in both Russia and Ukraine. I guess I should first ask whether or not you intend to run again, and secondly if you have any contacts with like-minded politicians in Russia, like Mikhail Kasyanov and Garry Kasparov?

    VY: When speaking about the internal elections in Russia, both parliamentary and presidential, this is purely a domestic affair. It is the right of the people to choose which force they want to align their future with.

    For us, as neighbours, what’s important is that [the elections] are performed on a democratic basis and in public. This is the main thing. To preserve people’s right to vote…

    This process should go in a democratic way.

    MM: I was here, or course, during the Orange Revolution, and just speaking with colleagues and friends of mine who were among your supporters in the streets at the time, there’s a certain amount of disillusionment three years on. I’m wondering if you understand the people who feel they were let down, and where you put the blame for what hasn’t gone right?

    VY: Saying that Ukraine has not changed in the last two years is telling lies. Today we have the [fastest growth rate] in Europe. We didn’t have that before. As a whole we were in depression for 13 years.

    Today the GDP growth is estimated at 8 per cent. The industrial growth is 13. Agriculture growth is 6.

    For the past two years, Ukraine received $10-billion in [foreign direct investment]. More than the previous 15 years altogether. For the last two years, we’ve had our lowed unemployment rate ever.

    The real incomes of the population have increased by 21 and 18 per cent respectively. Salary growth is estimated at around 34 per cent. Every year, we’re creating a million new [jobs], and not a single social strike has taken place in the past two years.

    Ukrainian pensions are now higher than Russia, Belarus and Moldova. Three years ago it was a different case. We had the lowest salaries, the lowest pension out of all the [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries, except for Armenia and Uzbekistan.

    Speaking about social and economic indicators, we have just immense success in two years. It should be mentioned that the reserves of the Central Bank have doubled and now are estimated at $23-billion. We have a stable currency and stable prices. We have one of the most dynamic European economies at the moment, which is developing a lot faster than our neighbours’, including Russia.

    Speaking about the political agenda, there are still problems here. These problems are mainly related to the system of political power.

    I never had a pro-presidential majority in parliament while I’ve been President. I work in a regime where the political majority is on the other side. When this majority determines the law enforcement institutions, the prosecutor’s office…

    Among other issues, I can say that relations between democratic parties are very complicated as well. Uniting two political forces is not an easy task to do. When we were going to the parliament [elections] back in 2002, I had to make a joint bloc which contained 12 political parties. That makes keeping efficient dialogue very complex.

    In the course of the last parliamentary elections, if no betrayals took place, like [Socialist leader Oleksandr] Moroz’s, it would have been the first time in the history of Ukraine when the majority in parliament was [controlled] by democratic parties.

    It’s necessary to pay considerable attention to the dialogue of democratic forces, which is the biggest political challenge.

    I believe the biggest disappointment is related to this very fact. The last election to parliament was not won by the Party of Regions, it was lost by the democratic forces, because of their internal relations.

    The President is not always able to settle these issues. We’re speaking of inter-party cooperation, which has been quite complex…

    It’s not an easy task.

    MM: I have one last, very personal, question for you. One of my friends, again a supporter of yours, says that one of the big signs for him that things haven’t gone as he’d hoped, was that no one has been charged in your poisoning. Do you expect that will happen any time soon?

    VY: This is one of the problems, in the context of the political fight between the past and the future.

    Ukraine is just about to build an unpoliticized and independent prosecutor’s office…

    It has [caused] everyday fighting and disputes, but it is necessary to make the prosecutor-general’s office distant from power and political orders.

    Different very loud cases are being seized because of somebody’s wish. Unfortunately, this is the reality Ukraine has faced over the last 10-15 years.

    In this very case, I can tell you the following.

    There is certain progress in this case. The investigators have received sufficient data on how this poison works, and what’s the technology of its application. Where the poison could be produced, in which lab, and how it could be delivered to Ukraine.”

    All the chain is related to when the meals were put on the table, and the people who have done it are already determined.

    Right now there is an international search for those people. In my opinion, this case is promising.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Interview with President Yushchenko

    I interviewed Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko this afternoon about his country's political crisis and the coming elections, as well as his intention to bring Ukraine into NATO and his country's relations with Russia. We met at the Presidential Administration building in Kyiv.

    The headlines will be in tomorrow's The Globe and Mail, and I hope to eventually post the full transcript of our discussion here.

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    The wrong way to say thank you

    Mikhail Saakashvili and his government owe the Bush Administration a favour. That's well known. Without the overt and covert support of the U.S. (and billionaire financier George Soros), the 2003 "Rose Revolution" probably never would have happened, and Eduard Shevardnadze would likely still be Georgia's president.

    And yes, with Russia trying to economically strangle its smaller neighbour with crushing sanctions on Georgian exports of wine and mineral water, Saakashvili and co. need all the big, powerful friends they can get right now.

    Still, the decision to more than double the number of Georgian troops fighting alongside the U.S. in its misguided war in Iraq boggles the mind.

    On Friday, Georgia's parliament voted to increase the troop deployment from 850 to 2,000. Many of these will be deployed in and around Baghdad, very likely putting them in the line of fire.

    While many of the troops are said to be willing to go because they receive nearly triple their regular pay while in Iraq (thanks to the U.S., which pays nearly two-thirds of their salaries), Saakashvili is nonetheless putting his country on the wrong side of history here.

    Unlike most, if not all, of the Georgian parliamentarians, I have been to Iraq five times since 2003, and can tell you that each subsequent trip was more dangerous for me personally. Simply put, the country is disintegrating, likely into three parts.

    I've also met Mr. Saakashvili twice, and if he granted me a third meeting, I'd tell him bluntly that sending an extra 1,150 Georgian soldiers to Baghdad won't stop this, and that sending them there is misguided and more than a little sycophantic.

    Of the few who once shared Bush's vision of reshaping the Middle East through toppling Saddam Hussein and ridding the country of its phantom weapons of mass destruction, Britain is leaving and Italy and Spain have left.

    Georgia, too, has done its time, having initially committed troops back in August 2003.

    Parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze said Georgia made the decision to up the number of troops because the country "knows the price of friendship, and will never forget the support that has been provided" by America.

    If sticking with Bush to the end of his foolhardy war is really the price of America's friendship, it's far too high. A real friend would tell him that.

    Friday, June 8, 2007

    The missing ingredient

    This post is published as part of the Russian media "Blog-Carnival" hosted by my friends at Krusenstern.

    Russia’s notoriously fractious opposition has finally settled on a single candidate for the 2008 elections in former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. As I wrote before, I think Kasyanov is the right choice – someone who can claim credit for some of the good done in terms of stabilizing the country during Vladimir Putin’s early years in office, while able to distance himself from the authoritarian slide that followed.

    Kasyanov’s nomination moves the opposition one step closer to their goal – which is not the electoral victory over Sergei Ivanov or Dmitriy Medvedev (or whomever the Kremlin puts forward next spring) that Kasyanov and friends claim to be seeking. With the Kremlin in full control of the electoral machine, and known to be willing to dump a few thousand ballots in a pit in Dagestan if it comes to that, no one expects the official results of the vote to yield anything other than a convincing victory for Vladimir Putin’s hand-picked successor. (If Putin goes at all, I should add here. See poll at bottom right.)

    The real aim is an Orange Revolution-style uprising on the streets of Moscow next spring, something that Kremlin strategists like Sergei Markov and opposition figures like Boris Nemtsov have told me both sides are actively preparing for.

    In preparing the country for such an uprising, putting aside pride and personal ambitions to rally around a single leader like Kasyanov is crucial for the opposition. The Orange Revolution would never have happened if Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko hadn’t been prodded (by the USAID-backed National Democratic Institute, among others) into ignoring the fact they agreed on little else, and focusing on their shared desire to see the end of Leonid Kuchma and Russian tutelage in Ukraine. The same goes for Mikhail Saakashvili and Zhurab Zhvania in Georgia before that, as well as Vojislav Kostunica and Zoran Djindjic in Serbia back in 2000.

    This is no conspiracy theory, just the way politics works across the former Soviet Union in this new cold war between Russia and the West. Putin and his coterie see the ex-republics of the USSR as still being Russia’s sphere of influence, and invest heavily in leaders like Viktor Yanukovich and Nursultan Nazarbayev who share that worldview.

    The West – predominantly America, but increasingly Europe too – recognize that Russian meddling in the internal affairs of its neighbours has corrupted the politics of those countries, giving the Kremlin an unsettling amount of control over the energy basin of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea (which worries the White House far more than, say, the lack of democracy in Western-friendly Azerbaijan). Since the success of the Western-sponsored uprising against Slobodan Milosevic seven years ago, they’ve actively been trying to export the model that worked there to other countries in the region. It worked in Ukraine and Georgia, it’s failed twice in Belarus.

    What’s missing in the opposition's plan so far is an independent national broadcaster that can put the its message out across the vast Russian hinterland and rouse public anger with the authorities by letting ordinary Russians know that they’ve been deceived by the current Kremlin. B-92 in Serbia and Rustavi-2 television in Georgia (both supported by American billionaire George Soros) played key roles in popularizing the pro-Western opposition and demonizing the old authorities in those countries. Petro Porashenko’s 5th Channel rallied Ukrainians to Independence Square, and provided 24-hour coverage of the demonstrations that played a part in convincing Kuchma and Yanukovich not to disperse the crowd by force.

    Russia, under Putin, has no national broadcaster that can (or is willing to) play such a role. Himself partially a creation of the oligarchs and their media empires, Putin understood early on that he could just as quickly be undone by them, and in his first years in office he systematically brought all the main television channels under direct or indirect Kremlin control. Bringing the once feisty media to heel was a key step towards establishing the system that cynically came to be known as “managed democracy”: giving people the appearance of choice, with little in fact to choose between.

    Newspapers like Novaya Gazeta and the unmatched Echo of Moscow radio station continue to bravely buck the Kremlin, and thereby provide some outlet for the opposition and its message. But neither has national reach. No one in Chelyabinsk or Pskov or Perm is going to hear their coverage of Mikhail Kasyanov’s attacks on Ivanov/Medvedev, let alone reports about missing ballot boxes or the discrepancies between the official results and the Western-sponsored exit polls.

    Barring a major change in the political landscape, most Russians, just as they did during the 2004 elections, will receive only a single line from the Kremlin and its media outlets - one that will be mandated through government-issued “themes”, or temnyki sent to editors across the country. The essence will be: Ivanov/Medvedev is the choice of the people. The other candidates are an unpatriotic bunch of creeps. Everything is getting better. Trust us.

    Tight media control by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus was one of the major reasons that attempted pro-Western uprisings have twice failed in Minsk (in 2001 and 2006). In Ukraine, the state’s use of temnyki turned half the population against the Orange Revolution before it even began.

    But all is not yet lost for the opposition, as demonstrated by how quickly government control of the media cracked in Ukraine in 2004 after a single, extremely symbolic act of defiance by Nataliya Dmytruk, a sign-language presenter at the state-run UT-1 television station.

    “The results announced by our Central Election Commission are rigged. Do not believe them,” she signed to her audience in the first days after the rigged presidential run-off between Yushchenko and Yanukovich, an orange ribbon rebelliously tied around her wrist.

    Her Ukrainian-language colleagues carried on with their coverage president-elect Yanukovich, unaware of Dmytruk's one-woman uprising. “Our president is Yushchenko," she went on. "I am very disappointed by the fact I had to interpret lies. I will not do it anymore. I do not know if you will see me again.”

    Within days, Dmytruk’s lone act of defiance had spread into a wider journalists’ revolt against the authorities and their temnyki. They started telling the truth to their audience and angry at the deception, thousands Ukrainians more joined the orange-waving crowds in the streets. It was a breakthrough that no amount of Western funding could have bought.

    These are dark days for the Russian media. The murder of Anna Politkovskaya made clear the risks that independent minded journalists run when they try to tell the truth about their country and the people who run it. According to Reporters sans frontières, she was the 21st journalist murdered in circumstances seen as likely related to her work since Putin came to power in 2000.

    The Russian opposition has its Yushchenko now in Mikhail Kasyanov. But what will determine the country’s future is whether it has enough Dmytruks and Politkovskayas to tell the country about him.

    One can't help but worry that too many have been scared into silence.

    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    Missile shield for Azerbaijan?

    The latest from the G-8 summit is that Vladimir Putin is offering a "compromise" proposal that would see the American missile shield - which Washington plans to base in Poland and the Czech Republic - replaced by a joint NATO-Russian effort that would be established in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

    It's a clever play by Putin. If, as the Bush Administration has always claimed, the shield is intended to defend Europe against missiles from rogue states like Iran, why not have the radar station and interceptors stationed in Azerbaijan, right next to the Iranian border? If the Bushies say no, they'll make it look like the Kremlin was right to be concerned, and that the system is an anti-Russian measure that could eventually be expanded to take away part or all of Moscow's strategic deterrent capability.

    Having threatened to point Russian missiles at Europe if the current missile shield plan is implemented, Putin has made it very difficult for the U.S. to say no to what sounds like a very reasonable proposal. And by volunteering Azerbaijan, he's picked a country where Russia retains wide influence, rather than the staunchly pro-Western Poland and Czech Republic.

    National Security Adviser Steve Hadley is the only American official to respond so far, and he's called Putin's suggestion an "interesting proposal."

    He might have added that Vladimir Vladimirovich is a hell of a poker player.

    Monday, June 4, 2007

    Candidate Kasyanov

    It's finally happened. The Russian opposition appear to have unified around a single candidate. Can it be?

    According to The Moscow Times, figures as disparate as Garry Kasparov, Boris Nemtsov and Eduard Limonov all spoke out in support of Kasyanov at a weekend conference in which The Candidate promised "better apartments for half the population and free health care for all." I'm a little unsettled that we haven't heard from Grigoriy Yavlinsky, but only a little.

    Mikhail Kasyanov, unquestionably, was the right person to choose. Putting aside his "Misha Two Percent" reputation - thus far unsubstantiated allegations that he asked for a 2 per cent cut on all business deals he oversaw as prime minister from 2000 to 2004 - he's the only opposition politician who both a) can claim democractic credentials and b) claim some credit for the popular stabilnost of the Putin years. In other words, he's not just some holdover from the Yeltsin years, he's someone who can say "I helped Putin, but he went too far." That's a message that actually might sell with Russian voters who see the Putin years as far better than Yeltsin's time, but are beginning to worry about just where the siloviki are going with all this.

    I once asked Marat Gellman, one of the spin doctors who created Putin and Putinism (though he now has his qualms about the monster he helped give birth to) about the possibility of Kasyanov eventually challenging the siloviki. “To answer that," he told me, "I need to know what kompromat [compromising material] there is against him.” Anyone who has been to the website knows what he means.

    “I don’t know of any and I don’t think [Putin’s allies] know. I think it’s with the Family."

    In other words, the opposition just chose the right guy.

    Sunday, June 3, 2007

    A frosty gathering in Heiligendamm

    It certainly looks like this year's G-8 summit will feature far less of the usual backslapping camraderie and a lot more blunt, combative talk.

    Vladimir Putin got the ball rolling in a hawkish interview he gave this weekend to my colleague Doug Saunders and other Western reporters. There are snippets available here on The Globe and Mail website ahead of the publication of the full interview tomorrow.

    In the preview, Putin threatens to aim his country's missiles at new targets in Europe if the U.S. pushes ahead with its plans to establish a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    "It is obvious that if part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States is located in Europe, and according to our military experts will be threatening us, we will have to respond," he said over dinner with oen correspondent from each of the other seven G-8 countries ahead of the summit this week in Germany. "What kind of steps are we going to take in response? Of course, we are going to get new targets in Europe."

    That doesn't sound like a "partner for peace" talking.

    I've written before about my concerns about the missile shield plan. While a missile shield that covers all of Europe - including Russia - from the threat of sudden attack by a rogue actor is desirable in the long run, there's no need to do this now, in this way. It's foolish to secure yourself against the possibility of Iran lobbing a single missile Europe's way (something not even Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has threatened to do), only to revive the now-dormant threat of hundreds Russian missiles annihilating half of the continent.

    That said, I imagine the other G-8 leaders are going to read these remarks with new concern, and Putin is certain to get a chilly reception when he arrives in Heiligendamm on Wednesday for the summit. The old question of why Russia - given that it meets none of the criteria for membership in the club - is in the G-8 at all is sure to come up as well.