Quo Vadis, Mother Russia?
"The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century," said Russia's new ruler Vladimir Putin in his 2005 state of the nation address.
"As for the Russian people," Putin went on, "it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory."
From Putin's standpoint, the statement was then and remains today understandable.
Consider. When Putin entered his country's secret service, Berlin was 110 miles deep inside a Soviet-occupied East Germany. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria were member states of the Warsaw Pact.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were republics of the USSR. Ukraine was the most populous and ethnically closest of the Soviet republics to Russia itself.
And today? Berlin is the capital of a united, free and democratic Germany, a member of NATO, that is beginning a rearmament campaign triggered by Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria are members of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Former Soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are also members of that Western alliance established to contain Russia.
Sweden and Finland, neutral through the Cold War, are applying for membership in NATO.
Ukraine, backed by the U.S. and NATO, is fighting a war to push the Russian army out of its territory, a war that has the support of almost every country on the continent of Europe.