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Cold War Redux  
Spy vs. Spy? No, it’s more like loser vs. loser  

    March 26 —  As an American, I must admit I was excited to see Russia’s Mir space station—once such a powerful symbol of Soviet space prowess, now a symbol of its futility—plunge to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean last week.  

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  I MEAN, MIR represented everything that was bad about our Cold War with the Soviets: the unnecessary competition, the overblown speeches, the really bad suits. So as I watched Mir kamikaze into the Pacific, I hoped that our two countries had finally put years of antagonism behind them.
        Yeah, right. Faster than you could say Yuri Andropov, the U.S. and Russia are already starting a new Cold War over a few spies. We caught Russia stealing secrets from our side, so we kicked a bunch of their “diplomats” out of our country. They retaliated by kicking a bunch of our “emissaries” out of Moscow.
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       “It’s spy vs. spy!” they’re saying on CNN. “Not since Brezhnev and Nixon have we had such cold relations with the once-Evil Empire,” they’re saying on Fox News. “Does this mean we have to wear those No Nukes t-shirts again?” they’re saying in my apartment.
        But this “new Cold War” is not an epic battle between two superpowers. In fact, it’s actually a race to the bottom between two spent nations gasping for their last shred of decency. You can almost hear our president and theirs trading barbs, low blows and “Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyahs” on the red
       phone right now.
        Bush: Well, you started it!
        Putin: No, you started it!
        Bush: No, you started it!
        Putin: George, this is getting us nowhere. But you did start it. Why were you digging a tunnel under our embassy? I mean, digging a tunnel?! Didn’t that go out in 1935?
        Bush: Fine, Vladimir, fine. But Russia is still a nation in decline. I mean, your biggest export to Europe nowadays is prostitutes.
        Putin: Yeah, and yours is Britney Spears, which is probably the same thing. At least Bob Dole doesn’t need Viagra anymore now that he’s seen Britney’s Pepsi ad from last night’s Oscar show. I couldn’t tell who was friskier, him or his dog. And that guy was almost your president!

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       Bush: Yeah, well, he isn’t. I am. And I’m going to restore honor and dignity to our government. Not like you did when that torpedo exploded on the Kursk submarine last year. You didn’t even try to rescue the crew!
        Putin: You did the same thing when you torpedoed Christie Whitman two weeks ago!
        Bush: Well, there’s no need to get snippy about it. Besides, as president, I’ll make sure you stop sending guns to Afghanistan.
        Putin: You probably should worry more about guns in your public schools.
        Bush: At least our space program isn’t so hard up for cash that we have to invite businessmen aboard as “space tourists.”
        Putin: At least our Navy isn’t so hard up for budget appropriations that we have to invite “distinguished civilians” on board for joyrides on submarines.
        Bush: Yeah, well I hear that in Russia, even your state governors can’t get food or gas.
        Putin: Yeah, well I hear that in America, everyone gets gassed when idiots like Jesse Ventura or Arnold Schwarzenegger run for governor.
        Bush: Yeah, well I hear that your people still have line up for hours for toilet paper that’s anything but puffy.
        Putin: Maybe, but I hear that your people spent the last month reading papers filled with nothing but Puffy. Although I did read that you’re so hard up for energy that you’re drilling for oil in your protected natural refuges and parks.
        Bush: At least we have protected natural refuges and parks, Vladimir.
        Putin: Yeah, maybe, but you’re still a weak country. I mean, after 20 years have you gotten any closer to building a reliable missile shield?
        Bush: No, but how far has your auto industry gotten to building a reliable windshield?
        Putin: At least our drinking water doesn’t have arsenic in it.
        Bush: How would you know? Since when is water the drink of choice in Russia?
        Putin: Yeah, well you started it!
        Bush: No, you started it!

Gersh Kuntzman is also a columnist for The New York Post and the author of “HAIR! Mankind’s Historic Quest to End Baldness” (Random House, April 2001). His e-mail address is gershny@yahoo.com.

       © 2002 Newsweek, Inc.
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