How to Avoid a New Cold War

U.S. ties with Russia are ominously bad. Longtime diplomat Zbigniew Brzenski warns Washington to tread wisely in the days ahead

Sergei Guneyev for TIME

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for a Christmas service at the New Jerusalem Monastery in Moscow on January 7, 2007.

America's relationship with Russia is on a downward slide. President Vladimir Putin's recent threat to retarget Russian missiles at some of America's European allies is just the latest flash point.

The elaborate charade of feigned friendship between Putin and President George W. Bush, begun several years ago when Bush testified to the alleged spiritual depth of his Russian counterpart's soul, hasn't helped. The fact that similarly staged "friendships"--between F.D.R. and "Uncle Joe" Stalin, Nixon and Brezhnev, Clinton and Yeltsin--ended in mutual disappointment did not prevent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from boasting not long ago that U.S.-Russian relations were now the...

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