When I was a boy, there was one great enemy in our world: Russia, the Soviet Union, the bear -- huge and implacable and stuffed with nuclear weapons. I grew up, and perhaps you did too, believing there was likely to be a nuclear war.
And then there was Gorbachov, remember him? -- and glasnost, remember that? The Berlin Wall came tumbling down, the West had won and Russia was broken. We looked elsewhere for our enemies and perhaps started to treat Russia as if it no longer mattered.
But recent events have shown that Russia is back. Even without eastern Europe, it is a huge country with massive reserves of oil and gas, and an army to match. And those who run the place are happy to use that power.
The most recent illustration involves the British oil company BP, which as part of TNK BP is the third largest oil producer in Russia. The company's Chief Executive has just been driven out of the country by a consortium of Russian investors. There have been police raids, allegations of tax evasion, and BP said the boss had to run for it because he feared for his safety.
The London Times newspaper reports that Russia is determined to regain control of oil supplies by hook or by crook, usually the latter.
Partly the trouble is that Russia is corrupt. But this is also a proud country determined to control its own assets, and happy to fight dirty where necessary. Which takes us on to the far more dangerous problem we have following America's decision to base part of its new missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Russia hates the idea, and feels that America is showing it no respect.
And it believes that the only way to get that respect back is through a show of force. Hence the rumors recently that they might want to station bombers in Cuba again. Remember Cuba? And the crazy thing is that Russia should really be our ally in the fight against extremism, in particular of the Muslim variety.
Instead of that, we find Russia using its vote in the UN to back Iran. The West made a big mistake when it forgot Russia.
By Peter Allen