When the Bush administration initiated the invasion of Iraq arguing that preemptive war was a justifiable action, the Pandora’s Box was opened. Russia has just announced that its armed forces will conduct preemptive strikes against terrorist bases in “any region of the world.” How will the UN or NATO or any government dispute the argument of the right that Russia or any other nations would have to defend its security after the actions of the United States?

Russia has not demonstrated accuracy or capability in dealing with previous terrorist attacks in its country. For example, there was a terrible massacre in the Moscow Theater on October 23, 2002. 129 hostages perished mostly due to the use of narcotic gas that the Russian Special Forces used to subdue the Chechen attackers. This shows incompetence in trying to solve such critical situations. Many mistakes were committed during the siege of the school in Beslan, in North Osetia bordering Chechnya . At the same time, what is happening in Iraq – anarchy, terror and chaos – demonstrates that the Bush administration is incapable of re-establishing peace and order in the afflicted Arab nation. The casualties of American soldiers continue to mount as well as innocent Iraqi citizens.

How will the world accept any preemptive attack when this action depends on the information from “intelligence” sources like that which was collected by the American and British intelligence prior to the war in Iraq ? The flaws, mistakes and misinformation are not in the open.

If Putin’s administration is not just trying to intimidate the Chechen separatists by launching preemptive attacks with the excuse of defending Russia , then very soon we could expect similar events from any nation with military power to try to vindicate past or present feuds with the terrible results that such actions will cause. More than one can play this game.

*Ruben Arvizu is Director for Latin America of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.