Imploding Europe, nuclear Iran, American cities under 'Occupation' the end of the NBA lockout - whatever it is we think of as defining the world in the last week of the second-to-last month of 2011, it’s clear what won’t make the cut: This won’t be remembered as the week Russia threatened Europe with nuclear missiles.
And yet, that's just what happened. In a blast from the Cold War past, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated that if the U.S. and its NATO allies proceed with plans for a regional missile defense system, Russia will put the European anti-missile installations in its nuclear cross-hairs.
What’s astonishing is what didn’t happen next. Aside from a bit of pro-forma push back from U.S. government spokesmen, Medvedev’s missile-flexing was met with a collective shrug. A young U.S. president didn’t channel his inner-JFK to put the nation on alert as he talked Russia back from the brink to an uneasy peace. The Atomic Scientists didn’t reach out to tick forward the nuclear Doomsday Clock to 5 Minutes to Midnight.
Instead, life went on. Americans went right back to the business of turkey, football and a Black Friday of full-contact shopping, while Europe went right on, well … figuring out who foots the bill for Greece and Italy and Spain and Portugal.
Maybe it’s time we noticed.
The same week that Moscow threatened to paint a bullseye on its European neighbors, Russia sent three warships to patrol Syria’s coast, warning the West that any 'foreign intervention' to stop the carnage of the Bashar al-Assad regime could trigger Russian resistance.
At the United Nations, Russian delegates made clear that they would scuttle stronger Iran sanctions, in spite of the new IAEA report that indicates Teheran’s rulers are closer than ever in their quest for a nuclear weapon.
In Venezuela, a Russian bank opened a $2 billion credit line, to go along with $4 billion in Russian arms sales to Hugo Chavez’s armed forces.
And meanwhile, back in Moscow, a national newsreader gave U.S. President Barack Obama an on-air 'middle-finger salute' during the nightly newscast. While Russia’s media remains nominally free, the TV station – according to author Tina Burrett - is majority-owned by a St. Petersburg bank controlled by 'a close personal friend' of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.