Identifying conditions under which peaceful cooperation emerges and erodes represents one of the great challenges for policy-makers and scholars of International Relations. To address this question, the author analyzes the Russian discourse on NATO to understand the heavily oscillating curve of NATO-Russian relations under Putin. Drawing on the constructivist approach of security communities, the present study shows how the lack of a common identity undermined the nascent security community that had developed on the surface in the early years of Putin's presidency. This, in turn, enabled rhetorical brinkmanship and political actions that brought both sides to the verge of war in August 2008. Matthias Conrad works for Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). He studied International Relations at cooperating universities in Berlin/Potsdam (MAIB) and Moscow (MGIMO).