The world's best known unrepentant communist, Vladimir Putin, traded nasty words this week with the world's best known closet communist, Hillary Clinton, and their war appears to be escalating.

My money is on Putin, but that doesn't mean he should take Clinton lightly. She spoke out after the national elections in Russia gave Putin's party a slight victory, but a victory nonetheless, assisting him in his drive to become Russia's president again. Clinton bemoaned the widespread allegations of ballot box stuffing and voter fraud.

In her defense there apparently was so much chicanery going on in Russia that it made America's presidential election of 2008 look legal! At least the Russian voters have a reasonably complete resume on Putin's background.

Mrs. Clinton, in her role as Secretary of State, made a number of unflattering remarks about Putin's involvement and he in turn said she is encouraging his opponents who are protesting the election results.

Putin's ruling United Russia party won about 50 percent of the vote, down from 64 percent four years ago, and barely held onto its majority in the Russian parliament, according to media reports. Putin was nominated earlier this year to run for president again and the United Russia party also approved his proposal that Russia's current president, Dmitry Medvedev, take over Putin's current role as prime minister.

Putin took over as Prime Minister after serving as president from 2000-2008, stepping down due to term limits. But Medvedev is viewed as a caretaker president and presumably will become a caretaker prime minister if Putin becomes president again. Putin rules with an iron fist, and doesn't bother to hide it inside a velvet glove.

Putin says hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign funds were used to sway the vote against his party, which means against him. He said Mrs Clinton "gave a signal" to his opponents, and warned that those working for foreign governments - which in Russian translates to "anyone I don't like" - to influence Russian politics would be held accountable. And to back up his position he called out tens of thousands of police and some Army troops too.

You may note that he called up the police to a much greater degree than the Army. That should tell you something about the state of political affairs in Russia today. Ah for the good old days of secret police, repression, gulags and the Cold War.

The international media tends to dismiss Putin as a lightweight, latter-day communist who yearns for the old Soviet Union. Back then he was in charge of the KGB and could pretty much get whatever he wanted just by giving someone his infamous ice-cold stare from those eyes that George Bush once looked deep into, coming away reassured.

I don't agree with that assessment - either of Putin as a lightweight or that we should be reassured with what we see in his eyes. I think Putin lets you see exactly what he wants you to see and not one bit more. Putin may have some odd ideas about what constitutes good media relations, like hunting tigers and planting ancient artifacts in locations where he is scuba diving so he can  "discover" them, but that should not be used as a reason for ignoring where he is going and what he is doing.

Whether we like it or not he is still a driving force - perhaps THE driving force - in the world's largest country by land mass.

If  you want to see the results of Putin's long term view of the world you have only to look at Russia's annexation of one-fifth of the country of Georgia in 2008. This was the culmination of years of planning and executing an overall strategy that used manipulation of another country's internal affairs, and wholesale slaughter of ethnic Georgians especially in the areas the Kremlin wanted.

Putin wasn't president when the Soviet Union fell, and he was between terms when the actual invasion took place, but you can bet he was up to his armpits in the effort to annex parts of Georgia - which itself was a continuation of centuries of repression. The most recent assault on Georgia was not designed or executed by simpletons or weaklings.

In fact it was brutality unleashed by a government that to this day has not really come to terms with the fact that most of the world rejects communism because most of the world can see that it doesn't work.

Clinton for her part, was on a speech-making roll this week, both with her comments on the Russian election and her support for US President Barack Hussein Obama's decision to use American foreign aid to support gay rights in countries where repression is common. That may be a big bite of a sour apple considering that many Asian, African and Micronesian countries are controlled by Muslim leaders who aren't exactly known for their tolerance levels.

Nonetheless, Clinton looked pretty strong as she crossed the stage to the podium where she delivered her support for the president. Dressed in slacks and a suit jacket she had a determined set to her shoulders, and a strong, purposeful stride that offset the teeny-bopper ponytail hair style she has been affecting of late.

I guess we could try to arrange an arm-wrestling match between Clinton and Putin but I believe he has the edge there too. And we have to consider that since both Clinton and Putin are communists - the American media would probably say that Clinton doesn't have a membership card to the Communist Party, but they would admit she is "pro-communist" which is essentially the same thing - this could all just be for show.

I don't see the Obama Administration as being necessarily opposed to Russia regaining the oppressive stature it had when it ran the Soviet Union, 

But image only takes you so far and the thing about Putin is that you don't toy with him, even if you think he is in on it. Remember, he not only survived, he thrived in a system where your best friend today could order your execution tomorrow - or actually tonight, very late, when everyone else is asleep and people know better than to look out the window when the secret police kick down their neighbor's door.

Clinton and Obama should keep those things in mind.