A fairly impressive display of simian chest-thumping from Russia's favourite autocrat-in-chief. In an interview with a small group of journalists, Vladimir Putin lashed out at George Bush and NATO. He also announced plans to re-aim Russia's missile arsenal at targets in Western Europe.
Behind all the bluster, Putin may be on to something, at least where the nuclear arms policy of the United States is concerned. The USA withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002, and has recently announced plans to build anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Or, as I'm sure it appears to Putin, right in Russia's backyard. Too bad Putin has chosen to meet provocation with provocation in a funny little slow dance all-too familiar to the nuclear-incineration fearing citizens of the world.
But the crowning glory of Putin's tirade was his claim that he is the world's only true democrat. Said Putin:
"Of course, I am a pure and absolute democrat. The tragedy is that I am alone. I am the only such pure democrat. There are no such other democrats in the world. Let us see what is happening in North America: Just horrible torture. The homeless. Guantanamo. Detentions without normal court proceedings."
"After the death of Mahatma Gandhi," he added, "I have nobody to talk to."
Right. I think Putin's democratic record speaks for itself. Here's a strange preview of what Putin may have in mind when his democratically-elected term comes to an end:
"A lot will depend on how the political process evolves in Russia toward the end of this year and in early 2008. There are different options that may be considered."
Different options? Other than just stepping aside after his constitutionally mandated two terms in office? If Stalin were alive, they'd be giving each other high-fives.