How they see us: Locked in a new Cold War with Russia
The Cold War is officially back, said Mark MacKinnon in The Globe and Mail(Canada). “Not since the 1980s has the hostility between East and West bubbled over on so many fronts at the same time.” Last week alone, armed Russian fighter jets flew over Finland and Estonia, and Russia moved nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad, a tiny Russian territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania. Then Washington and Moscow began “a dangerous war of words.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia should be investigated for war crimes for its merciless bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo, where thousands of civilians have been killed. The Kremlin quickly fired back, accusing the U.S. of plotting to attack its military base in Syria and saying that it was considering reopening bases in Vietnam and Cuba. The U.S. government capped off the week by formally accusing Russia of hacking and leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to influence the presidential election. Moscow, it seems, has been trying to ensure that Republican candidate Donald Trump—who has repeatedly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “strong leader”—moves into the Oval Office.
This is worse than the Cold War ever was, said Hanno Kautz in Bild(Germany). Back then, Moscow and Washington “knew their red lines and respected them,” says German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “These new times are different, more dangerous.” Some are calling the Kaliningrad situation the Baltic region’s own “Cuban missile crisis”—but in 1962, the Soviets were forced to turn back the weapons. In this case, the missiles are there, in the heart of Europe, and they could be used to take out Berlin. The terrifying part is that a mishap could easily trigger a hot war, said Ugo Tramballi in Il Sole 24 Ore(Italy). “Never before have there been so many warships on the Baltic Sea or so many aircraft in the sky above it.” The situation is even more dangerous in Syria, “where the Russians and the Americans are fighting right next to each other, on the same battlefield.” If Russian forces accidentally killed American troops, or vice versa, we could face an unprecedented international crisis.
Listen to these paranoid Westerners! said Dmitry Olshansky in Komsomolskaya Pravda(Russia). U.S. and European headlines rant about “Putin’s attack on the free world,” accusing him of manipulating a Manchurian candidate and preparing to march into Estonia. Honestly, if any of it were true, I might feel “a sense of pride,” thinking, “Wow, what a formidable country I live in!” In reality, of course, it is “complete nonsense.” The missile deployment in Kaliningrad, for example, was not a secret, nor a threat, but a routine part of military training exercises. Here’s what Russia really wants: compromise on Ukraine and Syria, sanctions lifted, trade, and dialogue. That amounts to a “defensive, conservative plan to keep the status quo in a more or less peaceful state.” Can’t we all live with that?