What's up with Vladimir Putin, who has been saying all kinds of anti-American things lately and has chosen to make a stink about U.S. plans to install a modest anti-missile installation with components in Poland and the Czech Republic. The 10 missile interceptors planned surely won't be much of a deterrent to Russia's arsenal of 5,000-7,000 missiles. They're designed to defend against a country like Iran, which doesn't yet have missiles that can reach Europe but is working to get them.
What's really going on is that after more than a decade of relative humiliation, Russia (with oil at $65 a barrel and much of Western Europe dependent on Russia for natural gas) is ready to assert itself as a Great Power again. Like most political manifestations it's more than a little absurd to care about this, but there it is. Putin, into whose soul Bush claims to have peered when they first met (ah, the arrogance of ignorance!) knows Bush is weakened by the Iraq war and his lame-duck status. Putin is supposedly term-limited too, but he may decide to run again and if he doesn't he can dictate the outcome, whereas any candidate to be successful in the U.S. will have to run against the increasingly unpopular Bush, even if he's a Republican.
Actually, the rhetoric is not so much aimed at the U.S., but at Central and Eastern Europe, countries that were Soviet satellites back in the supposed glory days but have turned decisively to the West, even joining NATO (which should have been shelved) and the EU. You've had your fun playing to the West, Putin may be saying, but it's time to remember there's a power to the East as well.
So far Bush has played this game poorly and I expect he will do so at the G-8 as well.