11/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Russian Debutante: Palin on Putin

In the face of countless jokes, Sarah Palin continues to maintain that Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her some inside knowledge on Moscow.

What's worse than her lack of knowledge (which I don't blame her for--she didn't know McCain would choose her) is her foreign policy instincts. All we get from Palin is Russia = Bad. But that kind of Manichean (and McCainian) thinking will not keep Americans safe from harm in today's world.

Palin does not have John McCain's excuse of having lived some 30 years of his professional life during the Cold War for being reflexively hostile toward Moscow. Yet she has bought the neocon framework hook, line and sinker and avoided developing a fresh and accurate conceptualization of what national security means in today's world.

To fight today's threats, we have to work with yesterday's enemies. Painfully, that includes Russia. Aggressive, less-democratic-by-the-day, Russia. So here is a line of questioning about Russia I wish Gwen Ifll would take up tomorrow night:

1. When you think about the safety of your children and grandchildren, what national security threat do you worry about most? Answer: Islamic terrorists.
2. You are aware, I am sure that Osama Bin Laden has said that it's a "religious duty" for his followers to obtain a nuclear weapon? Answer: Of course.
3. And that many experts including former US officials consider a terrorist nuclear attack the most immediate and dire threat facing America? Answer: Of course.
4. And do you know which country has the largest stockpile of loose nuclear material in the world? Answer: It's Russia.
5. Can you see any of those nukes from your house? Answer: Umm, no.
6. So the Russians have to keep an eye on them to make sure terrorists don't get them? Answer: Yes, and Senator McCain has been working on that.
7. But Senator McCain in the debate last week insulted Prime Minister Putin, calling him nothing but a KBG operative. Could that affect our ability to cooperate with Russia? Answer: ?
8. And how would Senator McCain's proposal of kicking Russia out of the G-8 affect cooperation we have with Russia on securing loose nuclear materials? Answer: ?

Do we have to like Russia? No. Do we have to work with Moscow to secure America? Yes. We need a President and Vice President who can understand there is no contradiction there.