Vladimir Putin has chosen in his final year in power to challenge Washington’s international political leadership. It is a very calculated move based on his perception that American foreign policy during the later Bush years has so alienated the rest of the world that the time has arrived where Russia once again can become the second superpower — this time without the Communist ideological strictures. The Cold War mentality suits best the longtime professional intelligence officer that is V.V.Putin. He is far more comfortable intellectually with the United States as a principal opponent rather than a friend. It’s a move only a former Soviet stakhanovite chekist could pull off. It’s a clever but dangerous tactic in the game of realpolitik chess. But the man who once was called “Little Putka” has already shown he is adept at the unexpected gamble. It might be well for him, however, to study the possibility that what he has judged as a chess match may turn out to be Russian roulette.