November 9 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the government of the German Democratic Republic opening crossing points at the wall separating the eastern and western sections of Berlin.
From 1961 to 1989 the wall had been a dividing line in, a symbol of, and a metonym for, the Cold War.
A generation later, events are to be held in Berlin to commemorate the "fall of the Berlin Wall," the last victory the West can claim over the past two decades. Bogged down in a war in Afghanistan, occupation in Iraq and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States, Germany and the West as a whole are eager to cast a fond glance back at what is viewed as their greatest triumph: The collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe closely followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union.
All the players in that drama and events leading up to it -- Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, George H. W. Bush, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa -- will be reverently eulogized and lionized.
Gorbachev will attend the anniversary bash at the Brandenburg Gate and the editorial pages of newspapers around the world will dutifully repeat the litany of bromides, pieties, self-congratulatory praises and grandiose claims one can expect on the occasion.
What will not be cited are comments like those from Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, on November 6. To wit, that "The Berlin Wall has been replaced with a sanitary cordon of ex-Soviet nations, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea." 
With the unification of first Berlin and then Germany as a whole, the Soviet Union and its president Mikhail Gorbachev were assured that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would not expand eastward toward their border. Gorbachev insists that in 1990 U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told him "Look, if you remove your troops and allow unification of Germany in NATO, NATO will not expand one inch to the east." 
Not only was the former East Germany absorbed into NATO but over the past ten years every other Soviet ally in the Warsaw Pact has become a full member of the bloc -- Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Russia has twice before been attacked from the West, by the largest invasion forces ever assembled on the European continent and indeed in the world at one time (Herodotus' hyperbolic estimates of Xerxes' army notwithstanding), that of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 and of Adolf Hitler in 1941. The first consisted of 700,000 troops and the second of 5 million.
Moscow's concerns about military encroachments on its western borders and its desire to insure at least neutral buffers zones on them are invariably portrayed in the U.S. and allied Western capitals as some combination of Russian paranoia and a plot to revive the "Soviet Empire." What the self-anointed luminaries of Western geopolitics feel about neutrality will be seen later.
With the expansion of the U.S-dominated military bloc into Eastern Europe in 1999 and 2004, in the latter case not only the remaining non-Soviet former Warsaw Pact states but three ex-Soviet republics became full members, there are now five NATO nations bordering Russia. Three directly abutting its mainland -- Estonia, Latvia and Norway -- and two more neighboring the Kaliningrad territory, Lithuania and Poland. Finland, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are being prepared to follow suit and upon doing so will complete a belt from the Barents to the Baltic, from the Black to the Caspian Seas.
The total length of the Berlin Wall separating all of West Berlin from the German Democratic Republic was 96 miles. A NATO military cordon from northeastern Norway to northern Azerbaijan would stretch over 3,000 miles (over 4,800 kilometers).
As a Russian news commentary recently noted in relation to the U.S. spending $110 million to upgrade two of the seven new military bases the Pentagon has acquired across the Black Sea from Russia, "The installations in Romania and Bulgaria go in line with the program of relocation of American troops in Europe announced on 2004 by then president George Bush. Its main goal is the maximum proximity to Russian borders." 
The wall being erected (and connected) around all of European Russia is not a defensive redoubt, a protective barrier. It is a steadily advancing phalanx of bases and military hardware.
Last month NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Lithuania to inspect the Siauliai Air Base from where NATO warplanes have conducted uninterrupted patrols over the Baltic Sea for over five years, skirting the Russian coast a three-minute flight from St. Petersburg.
New Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said at the time "We have been assured that NATO is still interested in investing in defence of the Baltic region. I am happy to see the NATO Secretary General here, in Lithuania, in the only and most important NATO air force base in the Baltic states. This is one of the main NATO defence points in the Baltic region."