10/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Palin, McCain and War with Russia

Gov. Palin's ABC interview raised concerns over her experience and knowledge.

It is her policy that should worry us most. The combination of McCain's recklessness, Palin's proclivities and neoconservative belligerence could plunge a McCain presidency into an early confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

Palin generated alarmed headlines when she casually said America could go to war with Russia to defend the Republic of Georgia.

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

No leader or candidate should promote, threaten or bluff global thermonuclear war. Russia has over 10,000 nuclear weapons, including some 2000 nuclear-tipped missiles ready to launch on 15-minutes notice. The failure of the two previous administrations to eliminate this threat means that the next administration must make it a top priority. There are many ways to both reduce this threat and stand up to Russia's brutality without suggesting war.

But this is more than inexperience. Gov. Palin's comments mirror Sen. McCain's response to the Russia-Georgia conflict. Both follow the hard line laid down by neoconservative advisers now dominating the campaign's foreign policy.

Their plans deserve more attention than they have received. Would President McCain implement this radical policy and establish Georgia as a military ally of the United States, placing American weapons and troops directly on Russia's southern Asian border?

Fred Kagan urges exactly this in The Weekly Standard. He would extend NATO-like security guarantees to Georgia now, rush hundreds of US military advisors to the nation, fund a major increase in Georgia's military forces, and pledge the US military to block Russian aircraft or troops from Georgian territory. In short, the doctrine Palin now espouses. Kagan, a fierce advocate for the invasion of Iraq and of strikes on Iran, wants to greatly expand the US military presence in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Georgia. "This program would aim to turn each of those states," he says, "into daunting porcupines capable of deterring the Russian bear."

His Weekly Standard colleague, Stuart Koehl, thinks this plan is too modest. Koehl says the Russian military is a paper bear that could be knocked off with a determined guerrilla war. He advocates sending U.S. anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft Stinger missiles to Georgia troops, encouraging them to wage protracted war with Russia, backed by lavish US military aid. "As Russian forces start to bleed," he claims, "it will be hide the casualties from the Russian people." The full aim of Koehl's proxy war would be overthrow of the Russian regime.

If this regime change strategy sounds familiar, it should. It is the same disastrous policy that brought us into an unnecessary war with Iraq, threatens war with Iran, blocked negotiations to end North Korea's nuclear program, and now returns in full glory to the original object of neoconservative ire: Russia. McCain and Palin seem to embrace this world view.

These plans have fermented for decades in various crackpot conferences and journals. A McCain-Palin administration could bring them directly into the White House. Nothing could be more dangerous for America's national security.