THE BLOG
07/21/2014 10:12 am ET Updated Sep 20, 2014

A Revanchist Power, 21st Century Style

During the Cold War, the tireless and tiresome Soviet propaganda machine constantly flung the epithet "revanchist" at West Germany, while everyone else knew that the country had turned deeply anti-militarist or, as the former American Ambassador to Berlin once put it to me, "Germany is out of the danger business."

Now, as America and the West are only gradually becoming aware, we have before us a revanchist power in the 21st Century. It is Russia.

In an op-ed in the New York Times on July 20, Timothy Garton Ash recalled attending a round table in St. Petersburg in 1994, when a little-known Vladimir Putin stated that Russia had voluntarily given up "huge territories" to the former Soviet republics, including areas "which historically have always belonged to Russia." Putin added that Russia could not simply abandon to their fate those "25 million Russians" who now lived abroad.

After its triumph in World War II, at a tremendous human cost that demonstrated the extraordinary Russian capacity to endure suffering, the Soviet Union overreached itself and lost the Cold War. George H. W. Bush tried to mitigate the pain, but pain it was for Russia; however, the West seemed not to be fully aware of it.

The skyrocketing popularity of Putin in Russia after his illegal annexation of Crimea and his tactic of "hybrid war" (which we in the U.S. would call covert action), is a measure of just how wronged the Russian people feel about how the post-Cold War world has turned out, and just how much the spirit of revenge has taken hold in the Russian soul.