Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates went to Russia last week to meet with Russian Strongman, chief muckety-muck, and target of Iranian hit men Vladimir Ras-Putin. They were promptly snubbed.

Vlad has been a bit off his borshch (Russian spelling) lately over President Bush insisting on locating some components of a missile defense system in eastern Europe. Ras-Putin is pulling a major diplomatic snit over it and kept Rice and Gates waiting in a conference room for 40 minutes before he finally showed up for their meeting.

(He said he had to take an emergency call. Uh-huh. Emergencies are dealt with in seconds, minutes at most. After a half-hour it no longer is an emergency. It probably was an intelligence operative in Tehran telling him "Stay home, don't go to Iran.")

Putin, who apparently doesn't like Russia being relegated to the sidelines in international relations, has re-started Cold War era bomber patrols, is threatening to scrap old arms limitations agreements - a farce since Russia never adhered to them anyway - and probably is contemplating freezing Europe out of natural gas supplies this winter if he doesn't get his way.

Bush has repeatedly assured Putin that the radar systems associated with defending Europe against nuclear missiles launched from Iran are not a threat to Russia, but Putin isn't listening. He thinks Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, aka Green Bean Almondine, is a really nice guy, not a psycho nut case who wants to blow up the whole world so he can be in charge in his version of paradise.

Putin may want to rethink his priorities in wake of the revelations that he is being targeted for assassination if he goes to Iran.

In fact, a high-level delegation headed by my un-favorite globalization proponent, Henry Kissinger, is reported to have gone to Russia this past summer to meet with Putin and try to smooth things over. The only report I can find on it so far has Kissinger saying afterward that they had "frank" discussions, which means in diplomatic-speak that Putin told them to go to hell.

I have written in the past that Russia is pulling the strings in places like Iran and Syria, using the Islamo-fascist terrorists to do the dirty work for reemerging communism. Putin has sold anti-aircraft defense systems to Iran, to protect them from our Air Force, while Green Bean's boys are invading Iraq to blow up US troops and Iraqis.

Then Putin gives us the "What, Me Worry?" response when asked about Iranian nuclear ambitions and progress.

Bush knows we need the missile defense system in eastern Europe because he knows we are less than a decade away from Iran having international nuclear capabilities. He also knows that eastern Europe and our allies there are much closer to seeing an Iranian launched mushroom cloud over their countries than we are, since Iran already has mid-range missiles capable of hitting Europe.

Bush can and will act in our defense, regardless of what the communist conspirators, aka Democrats, in Congress say about it. According to the Sunday morning political talk shows, Congressional Democrats will raise whining and mewling to record levels if Bush takes action against Iran.

Kind of like the Ho Chi Minh trail all over again.

Nonetheless, I believe Bush has Congressional Democrats and collaborating Republicans in a corner, since they have descended into a near-minus approval rating with the US public and are seen in some quarters as outright traitors, not just conspirators and sympathizers. I believe he will act forcefully and decisively if he believes we are in danger.

Now, here is the connection between all the above and fly fishing versus angling.

On the news Friday, when the reports were airing about Ras-Putin keeping Rice and Gates waiting on him, they also ran footage of his now infamous Siberian vacation last summer when he was filmed fishing while not wearing a shirt. The world was focused on his torso but I noticed that Ras-Putin was using a rod and reel, and casting, presumably with lures, although he may have been using bait.

Also on Friday, Fox News began running promos for a weekend feature on Vice President Dick Cheney, noting that he is an avid fly fisherman.

Some Internet reports on Kissinger's visit to Russia last summer say it was arranged by Cheney, not Bush. That is why it is important to know that Cheney is a fly-fisherman while Putin is an angler.

To not understand the division between anglers and fly fishermen is to not understand international relations in this context.

Fly fishermen are the next evolution of the human species. You don't have to take my word for this, just ask a fly fisherman. Dry fly fishermen believe in this so totally that they barely deign to speak even to other fly fishermen if they use wet flies.

Angling in that world is seen as a living museum display, kind of like going to Williamsburg, Virginia, or Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts to see how things worked back in Colonial times.

To further illustrate the concepts, an angler - other than the guys on the pro fishing tours - will sit in a boat or on the shore, put a bobber on the line, bait the hook with a worm or shiner, toss it out once and sit back sipping beer for hours on end. Catching something is nice, but not necessary. But woe be to he who interrupts this solitude. Mess with an angler and he will knock you flat, or at least try.

Fly fishermen are different. They stalk fish the way hunters stalk prey. They work streams, lakes, ponds or rivers, and I have even seen them working the Atlantic Ocean, the way golf pros work a fairway. Fly fishermen want to land fish, they want results, and they are so specific about what they do that they even pursue records in categories such as landing the largest saltwater fish on the lightest possible line.

I have fly fished in the past, and will in the future, and I have angled. I like them both at different times, for different reasons. Although I know many people who like both types of fishing, most fishermen I know adhere to one style or the other, not both.

Thus, I see Ras-Putin, an angler, as a straight-up, come right at you kind of guy. He usually doesn't resort to Candy-assed diplomatic insults like making people wait on him. Someone in his palace guard probably suggested that to him, and frankly, it disappointed me that he resorted to that kind of insult. I figured him more for the "frank discussion" type.

Cheney, on the other hand, won't come directly at you, unless you are a lawyer. Fly fishermen don't like street fighting and barroom brawls. They fight differently.

But don't confuse different with anything less. It is just different. Of all the people on the world stage today I doubt there is anyone who is more likely to abhor losing, and less likely to let an opponent win than Cheney.

Ras-Putin has been making a lot of noise in the past year, and it seems to get worse with each passing month. I have put on my amateur psychologist hat in the past and discerned that he is a bit peevish about his country no longer being a dominant world force, and that we should pay some serious attention to him because Russia can still be a dangerous enemy.

But I believe that advice has been taken and Russia is being included in high level matters. It is time for Ras-Putin to pull in his horns a bit here, especially since his new-found 'friends' in Iran want to kill him. You can never, never, trust a psychopath. Eventually, they will grow suspicious of you, even if you have never done anything to them, because their minds are shot.

Seems as though this has happened in Iran.

Another thing. Bush may have been misled when he said he had looked into Ras-Putin's soul and as a result trusts him. But being misled once doesn't make Bush a full-time accomplice.

Ras-Putin should take care to separate leftist assaults on Bush from the real man. He would do well to remember that Bush was a fighter pilot, and if he has forgotten what that means, go to his nearest fighter pilot base on a Thursday night, and stop in the Officer's club for a few pops with the boys. Keep it all off the record and he will soon be reminded of a fighter pilot's character.

And don't buy into all that claptrap about Bush being in the National Guard rather than the full-time Air Force. The training is the same. Time spent on active duty is different, but you don't get to fly fighter jets without the same ability and attitude.

One other thing - don't let Bush's Christianity cause you to misjudge his resolve. Remember, he put Cheney in charge of working things out with Russia.

If you think Bush's killer instinct is missing I can tell you exactly where to find it - sitting behind that big desk in the Vice President's office, tying dry flies, humming America The Beautiful, reviewing intelligence reports on Ras-Putin's weight and body composition, and figuring exactly what type of line he needs to reel him in.