After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately extended a helping hand to U.S. President George W. Bush. He let the U.S. use military bases in Central Asia when the U.S. attacked the Taliban forces in Afghanistan. But the once-friendly relations have deteriorated to the point where there is a talk of the U.S. and Russia heading into a new Cold War. Both countries should remove every source of friction to keep themselves from falling into an inextricable confrontation.

In a security meeting in Munich in February, Mr. Putin criticized U.S. foreign policy, accusing Washington of forging a hotbed of further conflicts and provoking a nuclear-arms race. Shortly before this year’s Group of Eight summit in early June, he said Russia could take retaliatory steps against the U.S. plan to build a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland both former Soviet satellite nations. He threatened to target Russian nuclear missiles at sites in Europe. The missiles have not been targeted since 1997. Retargeting them would be a regressive move that could destabilize Europe. In May, Russia test-launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24, which can carry multiple independent warheads.

Mr. Putin is also angry at attempts by the U.S. and European countries to help Kosovo break away from Serbia, with which Russia has a close relationship. Russia also threatens to freeze its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, a cornerstone of the post-Cold War European security.

The Russian president perhaps is tempted to think that U.S. unilateralism, as exemplified by America’s scrapping of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and by the Iraq war, is endangering the world. In the meantime, the U.S. is wary of Mr. Putin’s authoritarian rule at home and use of Russia’s energy sources to attain foreign policy goals. It is imperative that both the U.S. and Russia use their channels of communication, including the scheduled summit between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin in July, to build a constructive dialogue.

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