On Thursday, President Donald J. Trump enjoyed a rapturous reception in Warsaw’s Krasiński Square, speaking to a crowd of thousands in front of a monument to the roughly 200,000 men, women, and children who lost their lives in the city’s 1944 uprising against Nazi occupiers.
If you observed the spectacle of this American president puffing himself up as the leader of the free world before a largely bused-in crowd of Poland’s far-right, xenophobic Law and Justice party without a growing sense of nausea, then you either weren’t paying attention or have, perhaps understandably, become inured to Trump’s breathtaking vulgarity.
Trump’s Warsaw speech was sufficiently jingoist and militarist to win praise from, among others, neoconservative publicist William Kristol, who tweeted: “Trump’s speech in Warsaw was an appropriate, even eloquent, speech worthy of a president speaking for America.”
After the speech, it was on to Hamburg, Germany, where Trump is set to take part in the G20 summit. He will also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where there will be much to discuss.
If we agree that the essential meaning of the term “Cold War,” as defined by Princeton and NYU professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, is a “relationship between states in which exacerbating conflicts and confrontation are dominant in more areas than not and usually, though not always, short of military fighting,” then it is all too obvious that today’s meeting between Putin and Trump takes place during a second and perhaps even more dangerous Cold War between the United States and Russia.
Still worse, the new Cold War is being played out on at least four fronts, each with the potential—the nuclear age being what it is—to turn catastrophic.
While the media tends to play to the lowest common denominator by running stories about the “body language” of Trump and Putin, serious people like former defense secretary William Perry, former secretary of state George Shultz, and former senator Richard Lugar have rightly noted in a letter to Trump last week that “Crisis instability between the United States and Russia remains unacceptably high.”
And that is all too true given the four-front nature of the new Cold War.
Eastern Europe: US and Russian military aircraft have had numerous close calls in the skies above the Baltic and Black seas. Meanwhile, the United States and NATO have deployed thousands of troops along Russia’s western border in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Romania; the United States has also installed a ground-based missile-defense system that the Russian government believes violates previous arms-control agreements. It has been reported that, in response, Russia has begun testing a long-range cruise missile in violation of the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Nuclear Forces Treaty.