Fanning A New Idea
Tanks and troops invading a satellite state, spy expulsions, high-risk military games involving nuclear bombers and interceptor jets, gas supply cut-offs, and angry diplomatic exchanges all these newspaper headlines from Moscow to Washington and to Kiev, all point to only one fact that the Cold War is back.
Escalating tensions between President Vladimir Putin’s Russia and western countries led by the US are certainly indicative of the bad old days in some noteworthy respects. The Cold War, a truly global stand-off of immense ideological, military and political import, began, roughly, in the late 1940s and continued until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, an event later deplored by Putin as the biggest tragedy of the 20th century.
The particular trigger for the resurgence of chronic Cold War was Russia’s sudden annexation of Crimea, a Black Sea region that Moscow, historically speaking, regards as its own periphery. Since then, the trouble has spread, with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine fighting for independence, or at least autonomy, from the western-backed government in Kiev, and Russia implicitly threatening western energy supplies. The collapse in relations between Russia and the West does indeed deserve to be called a new Cold War. The hard reality is that whatever be the outcome of the crisis in Ukraine, Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe won’t return to business as usual, as they did after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
While most of the world was lauding the stability and economic growth that Vladimir Putin’s regime had brought to Russia, Edward Lucas was ringing alarm bells. Edward Lucas is a senior editor at the Economist. He has covered Central and Eastern Europe for more than 25 years, including postings in Moscow, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and the Baltic states. First published in 2008 and since revised, The New Cold War remains the most insightful and informative account of Russia today. It depicts the regime’s crushing of independent institutions and silencing of critics, taking Russia far away from the European mainstream. It highlights the Kremlin’s use of the energy weapon in Europe, the bullying of countries in the former Soviet empire, such as Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine —and the way that Russian money weakens the West’s will to resist.
Now updated with an incisive analysis of Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its destabilisation of Ukraine, The New Cold War unpicks the roots of the Kremlin’s ideology and exposes the West’s naive belief that Putin’s sinister and authoritarian regime might ever be a friend or partner.
By Nilabh Krishna