It’s pretty simple.
Under President Bush, America pushes a missile defense system in eastern Europe, claiming it’s meant to protect against so-called rogue nations like Iran.
Russia replies that there is an existing radar array in Azerbaijan, built by the Russians, and located just north of Iran. If America would use this location in cooperation with Russia, it would clarify that the system is intended for our joint security and not as a potential strategic advantage against Russia.
America pretends not to hear and makes arrangements to site the missile defense system in the Czech Republic. Close to Russia and a long way from Iran.
Russia makes trouble for America’s small ally, the Republic of Georgia, by supporting separatists in the border regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
During the Olympic Games, Georgia invades South Ossetia with the expectation of an easy victory. (America feigns ignorance of these plans.)
Russian troops defeat the Georgians, then invade Georgia and threaten the capital. They demonstrate that the Republic of Georgia exists on Russian sufferance.
America does nothing, because there is nothing it can do. The Bush administration clings to the missile defense project.
Just after Election Day, Russia announces it will locate missiles in Kaliningrad, capable of hitting targets in the new NATO countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc.
President Obama takes office, and America announces it will “review” the missile defense project.
Russia announces it will not proceed with plans to locate missiles in Kaliningrad.
The game is “tit for tat,” and the rules are simple: When you act like a treacherous felon, so will I. On the other hand, when you behave yourself, so will I.