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The Cold War Report November 5, 2007
Retro MADness
The Cold War Report By Alexander Zaitchik Browse author Email
Missile Defense: track-ball video game that's almost impossible to beat -- or final piece in an almost-completed Death Star?

Close your eyes, and breathe in through your nose. Ah yes, there's no mistaking that new-column smell, a hopeful potpourri of cardboard pine-tree, broken pencils, and fresh toner. Now open your eyes. Welcome to "The Cold War Report," a new eXile column that looks at U.S.-Russian relations in the tense twilight of the Bush-Putin era.

For this U.S.-centric launch of the Report, we kick things off in Orlando, Florida, America's favorite locale for grim corporate conferences and the inevitable DisneyWorld letdown. Now add to that list "and to get the New Cold War On." On October 21 the Republican presidential hopefuls gathered in Orlando to debate how best to defeat the three specters haunting the conservative American mind: Hillary, national heath care, and Islamofascism. While mostly a rehash of previous debates, fresh ground was broken when FOX moderator Carl Cameron asked John McCain and Rudy Giuliani how they would handle Vladimir Putin's bigger, badder, evil-er Russia. The result was another chilling Cold War flashback in a year that's been full of them. For the first time since 1980, two Republican presidential candidates tried to out-tough-talk each other on containing the Russian bear. Next up: Joe Biden warns of a "missile gap."

Cold Warrior 4 Life

It's stale Republican boilerplate to idealize 1950s America, but John McCain may be the only politician alive in either party who misses duck-and-cover drills as much as apple pies cooling on windowsills in Mayfield. How else to explain his decade-long hard-on for renewed confrontation with Moscow?

A yearning for a new Cold War is natural for a man so hesitant to let the first one die. When Gorbachev began to quit the game with deep unilateral cuts in forces stationed in Eastern Europe, McCain was one of the guys whose biggest concern was the effect of lessening tensions on Cold War defense budgets.

''[Reducing Warsaw Pact forces in Eastern Europe] is clearly a very intelligent move on the part of Gorbachev,'' McCain told the New York Times in 1988. ''I don't think it poses an immediate impact on the defense budget, but over time it can certainly have a significant effect if the perception of the Soviet threat is diminished.''

Soon the Arizona senator would be too wrapped up in the Keating Five S&L corruption scandal to worry much about international relations. But by the end of the decade McCain was out front in urging tough action against a hobbled and impoverished Russia. A longtime critic of aid to the country and the very idea of a NATO–Russia council, he urged sanctions against Moscow on the campaign trail in 2000. His newly microwaved calls to kick Russia out of the G8 date to 2003. And the Arizona senator has always dismissed out of hand any possible role for Russia in missile defense, for which he was an early and unwavering booster.

For John McCain, the Putin question was like getting served a raw 16 oz. steak. After dabbing the saliva from his mouth, the senator from Arizona warned that Moscow was causing "severe" problems for the U.S. and promised "tough times ahead." As opposed to the current U.S. president, who looked into Putin's soul and saw a trustworthy fellow Christian, McCain earned knowing GOP chuckles with a line about looking into Putin's eyes and seeing only the letters "K-G-B." Which makes you wonder, does McCain also see the letters "C-I-A" when he looks into the eyes of his friend George Bush Sr.? Is it a POW flashback thing, these floating letters in people's eyes?

McCain got so worked up driving pins into his Putin voodoo doll that he made two blunders, one minor, one enormous. His first gaffe was to refer to a proposed missile defense radar station in "Czechoslovakia," a nation that dissolved itself in 1993. It's the kind of mistake you'd expect George W. Bush to make, or your girlfriend's parents who've left the Great Lakes Region twice. But you'd hope a senator so eager to stake increased risk of global thermonuclear holocaust on missile defenses in Eastern Europe could get the fucking countries right.

The senator's second blunder was more serious, assuming it was a blunder at all. Toward the end of his allotted time, McCain performed the following logic leap, which must have had Condi Rice spewing protein shake all over her Stanford sweats:

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Alexander Zaitchik is an editor at The eXile. Email him at
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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

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Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

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eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

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Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


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