Crisis in Ukraine, potential threat of a new cold war

MOSCOW – Vladimir Pozner was the Soviet English propaganda editor in Moscow in 1962, a rare job that gave him access to American newspapers and magazines. That allowed him to watch the Cuban Missile Crisis outside the Soviet media filter, and sense a world on the brink of war.

Mr. Pozner, a longtime journalist for the Russian broadcaster, said he feels something similar now.

“The smell of war is very strong,” he said in an interview on Friday, a day as shelling increased along the front lines in eastern Ukraine. “If we talk about the relationship between Russia and the West – and especially the US – then I feel that it is still as bad as at any point in the Cold War, and perhaps, in a sense. That’s even worse. ”

Unlike in 1962, this is not the threat of nuclear war but a major land war now lurking in Europe. But the feeling that Russia and the US are entering a new version of the Cold War – long posited by some commentators on both sides of the Atlantic – has become inevitable.

President Biden alluded to that on Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, pledging that if Russia invades Ukraine, “we will rally the whole world to oppose their aggression.” Russian President Vladimir V. Putin addressed the issue at home on Saturday, as he oversaw a test launch of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that could evade American defenses.

“We are entering a new phase of confrontation,” said Dmitry Suslov, an international relations expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “After this crisis, it’s natural for us to be much clearer and more open to admitting that we are the enemy, we are the enemy, with all the consequences that follow.”

For now, no one knows how the world will emerge from the crisis – whether Mr Putin is staging an elaborate, costly hoax or is actually about to launch the biggest military offensive in Europe. since 1945. But it is clear that Mr. Putin’s overarching goal is to correct the outcome of the original Cold War, even if it comes at a deeper cost than a new Cold War.

Mr. Putin is seeking to undo the European security order created when his country was weakened and vulnerable after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, while also re-creating the geopolitical buffer that politicians have created. Russian rulers for centuries felt the need. He is signaling that he is ready to do this diplomatically, but also through the use of force.

The crisis has brought Putin a number of tactical victories as well as potential risks. Since first organizing a menacing army on the Ukrainian border last spring, he has attracted the attention of Washington – a target for the Kremlin, as it was during the Cold War, considered Confrontation with the United States is the defining conflict. But his actions also spurred anti-Russian sentiment and further unite Europe and the United States against Russia – something the Kremlin has to worry about in the face of its still far greater global economic and political power. The West.

Daniel Fried, a retired American diplomat who worked with Moscow both during the Soviet era and during the Putin era, said he has a message for Russians longing for the Cold War days when the country Theirs is respected by the United States. After all, the Soviet Union lost the original Cold War.

“You can get that back,” Mr. Fried said in an interview. “And it won’t go well for you.”

Unlike the Soviet Union, Mr. Putin is not attempting to wage a global ideological struggle, nor is he – now – bankrupting his country in a costly arms race. Russia is much more engaged in the global economy, a fact that some still hope will help the world avoid a deep and lasting confrontation between East and West. And for the United States, it is China – not Russia – that is now seen as a more serious long-term strategic rival.

But for Mr. Putin, the fight to reverse his country’s defeat in the original Cold War has dragged on for at least 15 years. He declared his rejection of the US-led world order in his 2007 Munich Security Conference speech, warning of “unexploded ordnance” left over from the Cold War: “ideological stereotypes”. and the “double standard” that allows Washington to rule the world while stifling Russia’s growth.

This weekend, in one of many disturbing developments in recent days, Russia will skip the Munich conference – the annual meeting at which Western officials can sit down with their Russian counterparts on tensions before Putin took power.

Instead, the Kremlin released footage of Putin in the Kremlin’s situation room, directing the test launches of its modernized nuclear arsenal with nuclear-capable missiles from the Kremlin. bombers, submarines and land-based launchers. It’s a carefully timed reminder that, as Russian television recently told viewers, the country can turn American cities “to radioactive ash.”

And Putin has sent a large force to the north, east and south of Ukraine to signal that the Kremlin considers the pro-Western shift of the former Soviet republic a threat so serious that it ready to fight to stop. The confrontation in some ways evoked the Berlin crisis of 1961, when the Soviet Union demanded that Western forces leave Berlin, and East Germany eventually built a wall separating East and West. For some Russians, Ukraine’s much closer proximity to Russia than Berlin is what makes the new Cold War all the more dangerous.

“Back then, the border ran through Berlin,” said Suslov, an analyst in Moscow. “Now the border passes through Kharkiv” – a Ukrainian city on the Russian border, a day’s drive from Moscow.

The Cold War could also draw parallels with what might happen inside Russia in the event of war. Analysts predict that the Kremlin will be even more authoritarian, and an even more ruthless hunt for purportedly Western-sponsored internal enemies. Mr. Pozner, a Paris-born state TV presenter who grew up partly in New York and moved to Moscow in 1952, thinks Russia’s enemies in the West might even silently hope for war. as it can weaken and discredit the country. .

“I am very worried,” Mr. Pozner said. “A Russian invasion of Ukraine is a disaster for Russia, first and foremost, in terms of Russia’s reputation and what will happen inside Russia as a result.”

Some Russian analysts think Putin can still de-escalate the crisis and leave with a tactical victory. The threat of war has begun a discussion in Ukraine and in the West about the idea that Kyiv might refuse NATO membership. And the United States has offered to negotiate on a number of initiatives of interest to Moscow, including placing missiles in Europe and limiting flights by long-range bombers.

But Mr. Putin has made it clear that he wants more: a wide-ranging, legally binding agreement to reduce NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe.

The intensity of the crisis Putin has built is evident in the harsh language the Kremlin has deployed. Along with French President Emmanuel Macron in the Kremlin this month, Putin said Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky had no choice but to implement a 2015 peace plan Russia is pushing: “You You may like it, you may not like it – deal with it, my gorgeous. Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, in a joint press conference with his visiting UK counterpart, Liz Truss, said their discussion was like a discussion between “the mute and the deaf”.

Pavel Palazhchenko, a former Soviet diplomat, said: “Sometimes discussions are quite heated between the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States. “But maybe not to that extent and not as openly as it is now. There’s really no parallel”.

Mr. Palazhchenko, who translated for Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev during summits with US presidents, described the language as an outburst of Russian frustration over security concerns. the country’s security is ignored. During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow jointly approved landmark arms control agreements. In Putin’s time, that has happened very little.

“This is a psychological and emotional response that has been evident for many years, even decades, by the West and the United States,” Palazhchenko said.

Doug Lute, a former US ambassador to NATO, dismissed the view of past disrespect for Russia’s interests, especially by saying that Russia’s nuclear arsenal was the “only existential threat” for the United States in the world”. But like Mr. Palazhchenko, he also sees lessons in the Cold War that have emerged from the current crisis.

“We may be living in a time when we have significantly different worldviews or significantly different ambitions, but even if that political competition does occur, will there be a difference,” Mr. Lute said. time to do things for our common good. “The Cold War can be a model for competition and cooperation at the same time.” Crisis in Ukraine, potential threat of a new cold war

Fry Electronics Team

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