I grew up in the 1950s at the height of the cold war hysteria. People were building tacky little air raid shelters in their back yards like that was going to protect them from nukes. As a major piece of its massive military expansion during WW II the US established the top secret Manhattan Project to develop The Bomb. The USSR had a contingent of spies working on the project and when Truman told Stalin about the weapon at Potsdam he was not only already aware of what was going on, but had his own version underway. That set off the arms race. It resulted in a stalemate between the world's two super powers and the cold war was carried on by small proxy wars intended to destabilize third world countries. Americans were besieged with unending anxiety about who was winning the arms race. I remember a constant stream of charts like this one.
When the USSR disintegrated as a political and economic control mechanism in the early 1990s the cold war was generally declared at an end and the more nationalistically inclined Americans claimed that WE WON.
There now seem to be a lot of people who think that Vladamir Putin has launched Cold War II. Even before the crisis in Ukraine came to a head, he was playing an increasingly aggressive role in international affairs such as Syria and Iran. Last Summer Obama took aim at him in a press conference and gave away his ticket to the Olympics.
The Obama administration seems to be trying to revive the US cold war image of the US as the leader of the free world. It is getting a bit complicated because the free world has sort of moved on since then and doesn't seem entirely convinced that it needs to be led. If we are in fact doing a remake of the cold war, this one appears to be primarily an economic war. Any direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO forces doesn't seem very likely at present.
During cold war I the USSR steadfastly maintained a high level of economic isolation for itself and its Eastern European satellites. It refused to participate in the Bretton Woods scheme and the related institutions of the IMF and World Bank. The US offered Marshal Plan assistance to the nations of the eastern bloc, but it was refused. Trade with the west was kept to an essential minimum. In the past 25 years that picture has changed drastically. This is what Russia's economic relationships look like now.
Today the EU held a summit meeting on the Ukrainian crisis. The discussions were described as stormy. They seem to be in agreement that Putin's aggressive posture needs to be contained, but when it comes to ways to do that, there is much less agreement. Here is the list of responses to Russia that they have agreed on.
to suspend negotiations on a more liberal visa regime for RussiansThe first two initiatives have both been in the works for several years without a lot of progress being made. The third is the only thing that matches the list of sanctions being proposed from Washington.
to stop work on a comprehensive new agreement on relations between Russia and the EU
and to pull out of all preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi in June
As part of the cold war reenactment the Republicans and Democrats are engaging in a traditional chorus of the Who Lost X anthem. It started in the late 1940s with Who Lost China. The newest verse is Who Lost Ukraine, even though it is not exactly clear that it is lost at this point.
Taken all together, it's almost enough to make me feel young again.