Picture this – an ocean teetering on the edge of a waterfall, waiting for a single ripple to send it cascading down. That’s the dance we’ve been doing since the Cold War ended, with NATO on one side and Russia on the other, led by an ever-watchful, ballet-obsessed, bear-riding Putin.

Roll back the clock to a chilly morning in 1990’s Moscow. Imagine a chessboard where Secretary of State James Baker sat across from Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Their pawns and rooks stood tall, echoing a complex, strategic dance of geopolitical power play. In this grand political arena, a toast was raised. And, as Gorbachev would later claim, a promise was etched into the annals of diplomatic folklore: NATO, the mighty queen on this global chessboard, would not sidestep “one inch to the east.”

A verbal checkmate, it seemed, had been agreed upon. An assurance offered over glasses raised and heated negotiations had seemingly drawn a boundary on the chessboard of global politics. But chess, as any seasoned player knows, is a game of strategy, foresight, and, sometimes, audacious gambits.