"[Putin] is a dangerous person," said McCain. "And he has to understand that there's a cost to some of his actions. And the first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place."
Say what, Rambo? Putin is dangerous; therefore we need...missile defenses? I guess McCain didn't get the memo. Ever since Bill Clinton reluctantly signed the Missile Defense Act of 1999, it has been the official position of the United States, repeated ad nauseum by Democrats and Republicans alike, that America's $100 billion and growing missile defense project has nothing, nothing at all, to do with Russia (or China.) Indeed, continues the mantra, U.S. missile defense installations--in California, Alaska, Eastern Europe, outer space, and other locations TBA--couldn't possibly have anything to do with Russia, because the system is so itty-bitty, while Russia's nuclear arsenal is so big and strong.
Mantras aside, the purpose(s) and potential of missile defense is wide open to debate, and a lot of smart and informed people maintain that Russia and China have good reason to fear the potential of missile defense to neutralize their strategic deterrent. But whatever else they do, U.S. politicians and officials aren't supposed to hint that there might be something to Russian concerns besides grandstanding and a desire to make trouble. So either McCain misspoke, and big time, or we are entering a new phase of no more pretending. If so, then the new mantra will be: Yes, it's true, the goal of the missile defense is to build a multi-layered Death Star that no state or coalition of states could ever hope to penetrate, destroy, or deter.
Judging from the audience response, McCain knocked the Putin question out of the park, and Florida Republicans are happy to follow him into the "tough times" ahead.
Heavy with child: John Podhoretz and the future intellectual architect of WW VII
Giuliani answered next, and was not about to let himself be out-hawked on the Russia Question. America's Mayor followed by breaking a little Russian policy taboo of his own. It wasn't that long ago that NATO expansion was argued exclusively in well-tailored terms of stability; of not creating new divisions in Europe; of the importance of integrating Europe's youngest democracies into Euro-Atlantic institutions; etc, etc. But here was Giuliani in Florida with little holograms of William Safire and Norman Podhoretz jumping up and down on his shoulders, urging the ultimate big bang round of NATO expansion with the stated purpose of keeping Russia (and China) in line. Here, too, pretend time is apparently over.
"It's a heck of a time to expand NATO," declared the provincial New York thug, who could have been trying to move an '03 Cavalier off a Staten Island lot. Newly acquainted with a map extending beyond the five boroughs, Giuliani listed Japan, Australia, and Ukraine as ideal NATO candidates. The last he singled out as an especially effective "hedge against Russia." This from a man whose experience in foreign affairs before running for president consisted of banning Nigerian art from Brooklyn museums and kicking Yasser Arafat out of UN concerts.
Along with taking NATO global to better encircle Russia and China, Giuliani recommended a Reagan-esque foreign policy. But unlike Barack Obama, who is following the advice of the newly abolitionist Henry Kissinger in arguing for deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals, Giuliani is a fan of the first Reagan administration, not the second. A massive arms build-up, argued Rudy, would "send a message" to Russia and China, as if America's $700 billion military budget (which including the war spending represents its highest defense budget ever) was just a huge "kick me" sign painted on the country's back.