Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cold War Lite?

It is safe to say that U.S.-Russia relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. The newest salvos in the op-ed pages confirms this.

But are we moving beyond legitimate criticisms of what's not going right in Russia in favor of ramping up Cold War style polemics?

Nicolai Petro's piece in the Asia Times once again highlights double standards in Western media coverage; he opens his essay by noting:

Among Russian President Vladimir Putin's many sins, surely the most outrageous is that he dares to compare Russia to the West. He has clearly forgotten Russia's proper role in our Narrative of Western Civilization: to serve as a poignant example of all the sins that we never commit. Putin has the temerity to suggest that Russia and the West face similar problems, and the gall to think that the West could even learn a thing or two from Russia.

In today's National Interest online, Nezavisimaya Gazeta's Andrey Terekhov takes a close look at Anders Aslunds piece in the Weekly Standard and sees some of the same type of selective fact-gathering that characterized our approach to intelligence assessments of pre-war Iraq:

You can have your own views, but you cannot have your own facts. In his October 23 essay in The Weekly Standard, “Putin Gets Away with Murder. It's time to confront the Russian leader”, the distinguished Russia expert Anders Aslund has yielded to the temptation of playing hard and fast with evidence. I’m not going to argue that Aslund’s perspective on today’s Russia is completely mistaken, nor do I want to justify President Putin’s vision for Russia. My goal is rectify the half-truths in the essay.

Do you guys need a better copy editor for your adverbs? "hard and fast"
He is a non-native speaker of English (Terekhov), although perhaps they should have exercised more editing control in that case ...
I live in a glass house, so I should not throw stones. But, it's an important sentence to this piece -- as it was excerpted.
Yes, a new US-Russia Cold War is coming. And the cause of this one is the same as the cause of the last one, namely, the refusal of Russian governments to submit permanently and unconditionally to our will.

This time though the Russian government has no illusions about the consequences of trying to appease us, so it could get ugly.
I don't think that we are in a "Cold War lite" or even close to it. First of all, the spectre of "Islamofascism" (or whatever the word of the day is) looms far too large in the public mind for Russia to replace it.
Secondly, Russia does not pose anywhere near the military threat of the USSR, and poses no ideological challenge (who wants to base their government on the Russian model?). In contrast, the Chinese model of economic freedom with political repression is a challenge to liberal democracy, and you have people like Lou Dobbs ranting about the Chinese military/economic threat every night on TV.
If we ever come close to a "Cold War lite" it will be with China, rather than Russia (I don't think it would be smarter, just more likely). Verbal spats are just verbal spats - we have them with Chavez, Iran, North Korea, even France, and to me Russia doesn't stand out much from that list.
Funny. This reminds me of the history talk on the NBR Japan Forum.
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Thanks for post. It’s really informative stuff.
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