Nation Contributing Editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fourth year, are at TheNation.com.)
For several years, Cohen has argued that the new Cold War is more dangerous than its 45-year predecessor, which, it is often said, “we barely survived.” Here he updates and aggregates evidence for that argument. Meanwhile, many American participants and commentators continue to deny—for personal and political reasons—that there is a new Cold War. Anyone doubting its existence needs only read leading US newspapers or watch television “news” broadcasts; or consult the growing number of declarations of Cold War against Russia, as, for example, a particularly extremist one produced recently by a professed bipartisan organization and co-authored by a former Obama Defense Department official, Evelyn Farkas.
Cohen identifies six specific factors that make the new Cold War more perilous than the preceding one:
1. Its confrontational epicenter is not in faraway Berlin or what was then called the “Third World” but directly on Russia’s borders, from the Baltic states and Eastern Europe to Ukraine and the Black Sea, where NATO’s military buildup is ever-growing in the form of more troops, weapons, war planes, ships, and, not to be overlooked, missile-defense installations. NATO now characterizes this vast Eastern front as its “territory.” No such foreign military power has appeared so close to Russia—and to its second city, St. Petersburg—since the Nazi German invasion in 1941. The perception in Moscow is understandable and predictable. Increasingly it is said—in the mass media and privately by high officials—that this constitutes “American aggression against Russia,” and even that “America is at war against Russia.” Compare this alarm, Cohen suggests, with the “Russiagate” allegation that the Kremlin “attacked America” during the 2016 presidential election, for which there is as of yet no empirical evidence, with the tangible evidence Russian officials plainly see for Washington’s current “aggression.” And imagine the potential for hot war—accidental or intentional—in this widespread and growing Russian perception. The ongoing push in Washington to send more weapons to Kiev, which has vowed to use them against the Russian-backed rebels in Donbass, can only escalate those Russian concerns and the danger they represent. (Meanwhile, Kiev is shredding the Minsk peace accords by adopting incompatible legislation.)