This week, the New York Times reported that Russia’s military has deployed a new cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, eliminated all land-based missiles with a range of 310 to 3,420 miles (500 – 5,500 kilometers).

The INF Treaty was pivotal in ending the Cold War. Now, Putin appears determined to start it all over again.

In October of 1962, the U.S. and the Soviet Union came within a hair’s breadth of launching their nuclear weapons. That confrontation, sparked by the Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba – only 90 miles from U.S. soil – was defused at the last-minute by deal between the Kennedy Administration and Nikita Krushchev, in which the Soviets agreed to withdraw their missiles in exchange for a guarantee that the U.S. would never invade Cuba.

Fortunately for the world in those days, clear heads and skillful diplomacy prevailed.

Today, the U.S and Russia are heading toward another missile crisis that raises memories of those dangerous days. Unfortunately, the U.S. is being led by mentally unstable, narcissistic megalomaniac with alleged ties to the Kremlin and a Russian president who is a hard-right authoritarian and who has become increasingly confrontational with the West.

In 2014, the Obama Administration reported that the missile system in question had been tested in violation of that treaty, and attempted to convince the Russians that it was in their best interest to back off while there was still time. Instead, the Russian military has moved forward – and there are now two operational battalions of missiles deployed within range of several NATO targets.

This comes less than a week after Putin ordered war planes of the Russian Aerospace Forces into the air for a drill intended to prepare them to go to war.

Meanwhile, at home, National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn has stepped down because of an improper communication with the Russian Ambassador, the Pentagon is starting to rattle its own sabers, while Congress remains lukewarm at best toward the idea of any new treaties. Trump (who has his own alleged Russian ties) is talking out both sides of his mouth, expressing his desire to improve U.S.-Russia relations on one hand and calling for the U.S. to “strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” on the other.

What we appear to have here is a powder keg that could blow up tomorrow – or never.

What will happen is anyone’s guess, but if the history since the end of the Second World War is any indication, this situation will give the Pentagon the excuse it needs to start an entirely new arms race. The Department of Defense will most certainly be enabled by a corrupt Congress completely beholden to corporate interests – including those of weapons manufacturers and aerospace companies, who are no doubt salivating at the prospect of lucrative military contracts.

It is fascinating how Congress is going after social programs with a meat cleaver, claiming that the U.S. “can’t afford it.” At yet, when it comes to war and oppression, the U.S. seems to be able to afford anything it wants.

The federal government’s priorities speak volumes about its character.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.