After the ceremonial greetings and the cup of Odessa Tea accompanied by delicate open faced sandwiches of Latvian Cheese and Minsk Cured Ham, we sat down to review some of the events taking place at the G8 meeting in Heiligendamm.
"Mister President, I understand that you are bitterly opposed to the US Missile shield that President Bush and his Generals plan to install in Eastern Europe"
The President is an austere man and a quiet one. He drank some tea, all the while nodding at its exquisite taste and then carefully selected a sandwich that was well covered with the famous Minsk brand. He nodded again and without waiting to finish chewing, savoring and ingesting the sandwich, replied:
"Joe, I believe that your president has again been misled by some of his planners. He has the same problem that I have; some of my aides are forever plotting either offensive campaigns or on the verge of developing extended defensive schemes. If it isn't one of our ex republics this time, it is China, India, the US or the entire Islamic club another time"
I finished my second cup of tea and a couple more open faced sandwiches and asked:
"Did you really mean to retarget your own missiles on Western Europe and the US?"
Our President's missile defense plan, utilizing the famous Star Wars Missile Shield that had its inception during the Reagan years and was adopted by Secretary Rumsfeld, would consist of a major radar center in the Czech Republic and a collection of interceptor rocket silos in Poland. Why select these two countries that border Russia? The answer is simple; none of the other European countries, with the exception of perhaps Albania, which is still under the spell of the brave cowboy from New Haven that conquered Saddam Hussein, would dream of having nuclear weapons within their borders. I tried to explain to President Putin that President Bush insisted that the missile defense shield was aimed at potential nuclear threats from Iran, not Russia.
President Putin listened attentively to my explanation that, incidentally, had been drilled into me that morning by the White House National Security Adviser, Steve Hadley. He nodded affably as he usually does and then said:
"I do not understand why go through all the trouble of installing a missile shield in Europe, to protect the US, when Iran is still years away from having nuclear weapons and the long range missiles needed to reach the continental US. If your president is concerned about Iran - as it seems to have been the case in the last few years - why doe he not begin at the beginning?. Talk to the Iranians. Sooner or later they will realize that trying to be the fastest gun in the Middle East only leads to the Okay Corral!"
I was impressed by his comparison and said so. He smiled and replied:
"I am a western movie addict. If you ever come to Moscow and if you like western movies, come to my dacha and you can see from the oldest Spaghetti Western to the gay cowboys movie and the latest David Duval western!"
He turned serious and said:
"I see no reason why we can not arrive at a reasonable agreement. I am hoping that President Bush and his generals realize that covering my flanks with missiles does not lead to friendly relations. They will be forcing me to retarget my own missile to Europe; and here we go again. A small spark and millions of people will pay with their lives"
He paused and then continued:
"How would the US like it if us, or China or Pakistan install missile systems in the borders of Mexico with the US, or on the borders of Canada with the US?"
"What would be your excuse?" I asked.
"A reason as absurd as the present one about protecting the US against Iranian missiles. We could claim that we fear an attack from Burkina Faso, Morocco or New Zealand. Listen, I offered President Bush the joint use of our missile control station in Azerbaijan. You see, that facility is only 800 miles from Iran whereas Poland is more than 3 thousand miles and the US about 10,000."
"What was his reaction, Mister President?'
"He said he would check with Nancy Pelosi!"