That is the one word description of Vladimir Putin’s behavior by Robert Gates probably the one person in the USA that knows Russia and Putin better than any other.

Gates joined the CIA in 1966 and served as its Director under Republican and Democrat Presidents and as our Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama gave him the Medal of Freedom upon the completion of his service.

What caused the taciturn and understated Gates to go off, so to speak?

A number of things, but by far, the fact that Putin had put his “Strategic (Nuclear) Forces” on the highest state of alert. Cutting to the chase, what Putin is saying to the USA is “if you think for one minute that I’m going to let you starve the Russian People with sanctions…I will view that action as an attack by the USA on Russia requiring Russia to respond with our most powerful weapons.

The only comparable period in American History is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Khrushchev forced Kennedy’s hand by installing missiles 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Kennedy “quarantined” incoming Russian vessels but gave Khrushchev a couple of face saving ways out. Using the word “Quarantine” was less offensive than “blockade” and Kennedy agreed to remove certain missiles from Turkey.

Nuclear is not a sane option. Everybody has an opinion on Putin…delusional, insane, whatever. According to Princeton a nuclear exchange between USA and Russia would cost 90 million lives on the first day. As long as Putin has power we have to talk.

In the Cuban crisis, a back channel between Bobby Kennedy and the Russian Ambassador to the US facilitated trust. A way down from the brink has to be found.

Biden should get word to Putin immediately that he wants a secret back channel now. Will Putin meet with Obama and Robert Gates? If so they should be in the air tonight.

We have to climb down from the brink.

Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.