02/18/2015 05:11 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2015

"Chess Is the Way We Establish Mastery Over the West"

I can't remember who said it, but I know it was said by a Russian General during the Cold War. As a chess player, figuratively speaking, Vladimir Putin has turned in a bravura performance over the past months, alternating hot and cold, offering peace initiatives and then turning aggressive, and all the while unabashedly deploying lie after lie.

It is now apparent that the U.S. has grossly underestimated the Russians, especially over the recent decades. How hollow rings today Henry Kissinger's blithe description of Russia in the 1980's: "Upper Volta plus nuclear weapons." (Bruce Anderson, Financial Times, April 16, 2014). We tend to forget, as we did when Russia degenerated into lawlessness and klepto-capitalism in the 1990's, that it was the Red Army, in the main, that conquered the formidable German military machine during World War II.

It is also interesting to note, in the plethora of books that have come out during the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, notably Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers" and Margaret MacMillian's "The War to End all Peace," one of the principal concerns of the German leaders prior to 1914 was the rapid rise of Russia as a great power and the need of Germany to confront this danger before it became too late.

The dynamic rule of Vladimir Putin in today's Russia has overturned the post-Cold War order and has challenged Europe and the United States to cope with this new equilibrium. Putin could remain in power for a long time. Welcome to a world that bears some resemblance to the period leading up to World War I.