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Reheating the cold war between Russia and the West

Cold war 2.0: how Russia and the west reheated a historic struggle
As chasm grows between a resurgent Russia and a divided US and Europe, diplomats say conflict is now more dangerous, with ‘no clear rules of the road’,
Guardian,  and   Washington 25 October 2016

Shirreff, then deputy supreme allied commander Europe, was at Nato’s military HQ in Mons, Belgium, when an American two-star general came in with the transcript of Putin’s speech justifying the annexation. “He briefed us and said: ‘I think this just might be a paradigm-shifting speech’, and I think he might have been right,” Shirreff recalled.

The Russian president’s address aired a long list of grievances, with the west’s attempts to contain Russia in the 18th to 20th centuries right at the top.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said: “The reality is that behind the appearance of consensus … a form of world disorder took hold. We are now paying the price for that error of assessment that gave westerners a feeling of comfort for two decades”.

In the UK, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said in his party conference speech that the west had been mistaken in its belief that “the fall of the Berlin Wall meant the world had come to a moment of ideological resolution after seven frozen and sometimes terrifying decades of communist totalitarian rule”.

Others such as Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, warned: “We are moving into an era that is as dangerous, if not more dangerous, as the cold war because we do not have that focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington.” But unlike the cold war, there are now “no clear rules of the road” between the two countries.

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, an advocate of dialogue, made the same point: “It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the cold war. The current times are different and more dangerous.”………

Many acknowledge the west must take its share of the blame for the collapse of relations. The mistakes are real, notably the scale of Nato expansion to the east and in the Baltics. Russia also feels deeply that it was duped into accepting a UN resolution criticising Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, only to find it was used as cover for regime change. Hillary Clinton, then at the State Department, did little to mange the Russians. Russia has not voted for humanitarian action at the UN since……….

The issue in Europe and the US now is how to respond to Putin? Some believe Russian statehood requires a more aggressive foreign policy. The Kremlin, faced by an ailing economy and declining population, needs external threats of war and violence in the media because Putin “has no civilian project to offer to society”, said Dr Andrew Monaghan at Chatham House. Putin instead offers a mobilisation strategy. The answer is to confront and push back, acknowledging that Putin sees offers of dialogue as a sign of weakness.

Others insist the west must continue to engage and keep pressing the reset button because coexistence is the only option.

In the US and Europe, the question about what to do with Russia is far from settled, something Putin is likely to continue to exploit……

The German chancellor, who has probably devoted more hours to the Putin relationship than any other western politician, is exasperated. She is a dealmaker, but in 2014 – following a conversation with Putin on Ukraine’s annexation – she told Obama that the Russian president was “living in a different world”. But a second round of sanctions in an election year is not attractive.

In Britain, the pre-eminent home for anti-Russian rhetoric since Cameron’s failed attempt at detente in 2011, Johnson has warned Russia that if it continues on its path it could be deemed a rogue nation.

But there are British voices urging calm. Tony Brenton, Britain’s ambassador to Moscow from 2004 to 2008, calls for realism. He argues that the post-war international system – or “liberal hegemony” as he puts it – no longer works. “We have failed with Russia and we are failing with China,” he said.

Brenton’s answer is to accept the limits of 21st-century western influence. “We are going to have to moderate our own ambitions. We can defend ourselves. We can protect our interests. But telling other bad countries how they should behave is less and less possible,” he said.

What’s next? How the west could respond to Russian threatsThe EU, in search of a policy response, is reaching again for sanctions. They have been estimated to have cost the Russian economy $280bn in capital inflows and to be taking roughly 0.5% a year off the GDP. In a society devoid of internal political and institutional constraints on the behaviour of the elite, extended sanctions could weaken Putin’s grip on power………

ultimately the key decisions will be taken in the new White House. Anthony Cordesman, a strategic analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the new administration must confront three realities. “First, Russia is a now broad strategic rival and is likely to remain so at least as long as Putin is in power. Second, the US can’t rebalance to Asia away from Europe or the Middle East. And third, short of being chased off the stage, the United States will have to play out a weak hand in Syria to limit and contain Russian influence.”

“There are no easy answers to the Russians,” said a Washington-based European diplomat. “They are deploying such aggressive rhetoric and policy. During the cold war there was an accepted vocabulary between the sides. There was a game, there was an accepted game,” the diplomat said. “Now the danger is there is no order. There is no accepted language. We are not talking the same language”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/24/cold-war-20-how-russia-and-the-west-reheated-a-historic-struggle

October 27, 2016 - Posted by | politics international, Russia, UK, USA, weapons and war

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