As Presidents Bush and Putin met the press after their G8 summit meeting, the Russian President proposed working with the US to use a radar base in Azerbaijan for missile defense.
I was reminded of an old math joke.
An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician have to build a fence around a flock of sheep, using as little material as possible. The engineer forms the flock into a circular shape and constructs a fence around it. The physicist builds a fence with an infinite diameter and pulls it together until it fits around the flock. The mathematician thinks for a while, then builds a fence around himself and defines himself as being outside.
Putin’s proposal took Bush and the US government by surprise. True, the Russians have in the past considered NATO to be a potential security threat. But Russia recently ratified an agreement for Russia and NATO member states to do joint military training and exercises, develop interoperability of armed forces, and cooperate on common security.
Regarding NATO, Putin may have felt fenced-in. But like the mathematician, Putin has redefined the problem by moving the fence. Even President Bush said, "It's much better to work together.”
Just about everyone would like to see a solution to the contentious US-Russian dispute over missile defense. Even though during his visit to Crawford High School in Texas a few years ago he requested no math questions, Putin may have just used a neat math trick to come up with a clever answer.