"There have been times when they slip back into Cold War thinking," said President Obama in his tutorial with Jay Leno.
And to show the Russians that such Cold War thinking is antiquated, Obama canceled his September summit with Vladimir Putin. The reason: Putin's grant of asylum to Edward Snowden, who showed up at the Moscow airport, his computers full of secrets that our National Security Agency has been thieving from every country on earth, including Russia.
Yet there are many KGB defectors in the United States, and Russia has never used this as an excuse to cancel a summit.
The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal are delighted, hopeful that cancellation presages a more confrontational policy toward Putin. But is a second Cold War really a good idea? And if it is coming, who is more responsible for it?
From 1989 to 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to let Eastern Europe go free and withdraw his troops and tank armies back to the Urals. The Soviet Union was allowed to dissolve into 15 nations. In three years, the USSR gave up an empire, a third of its territory, and half its people.
And it extended to us a hand of friendship.
How did we respond? We pushed NATO right up to Russia's borders, bringing in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, even former Soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
European objections alone prevented us from handing out NATO war guarantees to Ukraine and Georgia. Was this a friendly act? Would we have regarded post-Cold War Russian alliances with Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Mexico as friendly acts?
To cut Moscow out of the Caspian Sea oil, we helped build a pipeline through two former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and, thence, under the Black Sea to our NATO ally Turkey.
In the Boris Yeltsin decade, the 1990s, U.S. hustlers colluded with local oligarchs in looting Russia of her natural resources.
In the past decade, the National Endowment for Democracy and its Republican and Democratic subsidiaries helped dump over governments in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia, and replace them with regimes friendlier to us and more distant from Moscow.
George W. Bush sought to put an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Neither country had requested it. We said it was aimed at Iran.
When my late friend, columnist Tony Blankley, visited Russia in the Bush II era, he was astounded at the hostility he encountered from Russians who felt we had responded to their offer of friendship at the end of the Cold War by taking advantage of them.
Putin is a former intelligence officer, a patriot, a nationalist.
How did we think he would react to U.S. encirclement of his country by NATO and U.S. meddling in his internal affairs?
How did American patriots in the Truman-McCarthy era react to the discovery that Hollywood, the U.S. government and our atom bomb project were riddled with communists loyal to Josef Stalin?
Why cannot we Americans see ourselves as others see us?
Why is Russia still supporting the brutal regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, the Post and Journal demand to know. Well, Russia has a long relationship with the Assad family, selling it arms and maintaining a naval base on Syria's coast. Did we expect Russia to behave as we did when our autocratic ally of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was challenged by crowds in Tahrir Square?
We ditched Mubarak and washed our hands of him in weeks. Russia stood by its man. And does not Putin have a point when he asks why we are backing Syrian rebels among whom are elements of that same al-Qaida that killed thousands of us in the twin towers? Is the Syrian war so clear-cut a case of good and evil that the Russians should dump their friends and support ours?
If the Assad family is irredeemably wicked, why did George H.W. Bush enlist Hafez Assad in his war to liberate Kuwait in 1991, a war to which Damascus contributed 4,000 troops?
There is another reason Russia is recoiling from America. With the death of its Marxist-Leninist ideology, Russia is moving back toward its religious and Orthodox roots. Secretly baptized at birth by his mother, Putin has embraced this.
Increasingly, religious Russians look on America, with our Hollywood values and celebrations of homosexuality, as a sick society, a focus of cultural and moral evil in the world. Much of the Islamic world that once admired America has reached the same conclusion. Yet the Post is demanding that our government stand with "the persecuted rock band" of young women who desecrated with obscene acts the high altar of Moscow's most sacred cathedral.
Upon what ground do we Americans, 53 million abortions behind us since Roe v. Wade, stand to lecture other nations on morality?
Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, trade, arms reduction — we have fish to fry with Putin. As for our lectures on democracy and morality, how 'bout we put a sock in it?
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)