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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 Russians beat the US into space with Sputnik, tragedy had struck. The US then spent vast sums in a determined effort to get a man on the moon first. When that noble goal was finally achieved in 1969 I remember getting the day off work.

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.

The US finds itself on the fringe of this picture, behind Japan in significance and on a par with the UK and France. Germany and China are the major players. Since the end of the USSR the European Union has incorporated a majority of the central and eastern European nations that were part of the eastern bloc. It is often an unwieldy creature, but it is a big and by no means negligible critter. Germany has emerged as the economic lynch pin of the union. It has called the shots in the euro economic upheavals.

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 Russians

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

The 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.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  source confirms russian mil: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, FloridaSNMOM, commonmass

    guardian-uk link.

    Guardian Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7), currently in Ukraine, has spoken with a source with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who told him that troops in official Russian uniforms prevented OSCE observers from entering Crimea ...

    TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes? -- Addington's Perpwalk.

    by greenbird on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 11:28:56 AM PST

  •  we're too globalized, resurrecting Cold War memes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, whizdom, commonmass, doroma

    is only for domestic consumption given how the major wars have played out since WWII or even Korea, although it would seem like a Kosovo situation could happen in the worse case

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 11:30:18 AM PST

  •  Somehow, who lost Simferopol (6+ / 0-)

    doesn't have the same ring to it.

    "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

    by Paleo on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 11:30:42 AM PST

  •  Put your head between your knees and kiss your (11+ / 0-)

    *sterisk goodbye.

    The drills we had in school -- go to an inner hallway with no windows, sit down with your back to the wall and your head between your knees.

    I do not miss that.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 11:31:42 AM PST

  •  Cold War without the reason for the Cold War (8+ / 0-)

    I wish American politicians could get it through their heads that it is no longer 1945.  There were reasons for the United States acting as the indispensable nation then because that's what we were.  That is no longer true.  European and Asian economies have recovered.  The Russians aren't going to march on Paris or certainly not on Berlin.  

    Seems to me there are a lot of reasons not to make the Russians an enemy.  Who knows when things will go to hell in central Asia or the middle east.

  •  My favorite Cold War experience (10+ / 0-)

    was at a friend's wine farm deep in the hills of Appalachia. It was grape picking time and lots of us had come to help harvest. The farm owners were expat research doctors at UNC and most of the grape picking crowd were the same.

    That evening, the locals came by for venison and dancing (bluegrass clogging...love!) and they were awed by the international nature of the crowd. Hours spent asking various visitors "And whur are yew frum?". Scotland, France and Sweden were met with expressions of 'cool' but when they finally asked a gruff Russian a stunned, awkward silence descended.

    Everyone looked back and forth wondering what to do next until someone finally said: Tell you what. We won't bother you none if you don't bother us none.

    A real little mini-detente that I suspect was talked about for years.

  •  life was simpler in the 50s and 60s (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    the lyrics of pop songs were still (more or less) intelligible, and (though less important) we could always tell apart easily the "good guys" from "the bad guys".

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 01:49:28 PM PST

  •  Focus on China (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Visceral

    In early December, a Chinese naval vessel played "chicken" against the USS Cowpens.

    Sure, Russia may end up with Crimea.  But that concerns Germany.

    China asserting extraterritorial rights against our ally, Japan, concerns the US.  And just last week, China introduced two Anti-Japan national holidays to its calendar.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

    by PatriciaVa on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 02:05:29 PM PST

    •  The US is in the same position (0+ / 0-)

      in getting pushy with China that Germany is in dealing with Russia. It is ever so much easier to take the high ground when it doesn't cost you money.

      •  Except that I believe that the US population... (0+ / 0-)

        ..would support military action against China, since so much is at stake.

        I don't believe that Germans would support German troops in Ukraine.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

        by PatriciaVa on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 02:16:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps you should volunteer to fight. n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko
        •  I understand you believe that. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Richard Lyon

          Whenever international or economic issues arise, you see The Yellow Peril underfoot so it's a short put in this case too.

          And because the US would have so much to gain from starting a world war, how could the US public possibly fail to support it at this point? After all, the US has gained so much from it's other wars in the Mid-East and Asia recently particularly revitalization of the economy and re-affirming old friendships.  And war is something young men never tire of !

          No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

          by koNko on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 03:39:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, China is behind this, no doubt. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Richard Lyon, ExpatGirl

      They purposely send a boat into American territory in the South China Sea where no Chinese boat should ever venture and headed straight for Uncle Sam.

      Undoubtedly a dress rehearsal for an armada in the Black Sea.

      Report to your Navy Recruiter at once!  This aggression will not stand, man.

      No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

      by koNko on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 03:32:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The things ppl do to make u feel young, Richard. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExpatGirl

    A nice thank-you note to Putin would be appreciated :)

    Tipped and Recced.

    ps: can you add image attribution to the Guardian for the trade pic? Assuming that's where you got it from.

  •  The US bombed Japan at the end of WW2 (0+ / 0-)

    not only to force Japan into a quick submission after Germany's fall but to also send a clear message to the Soviet Union that the US had the bomb and was not afraid to use it.

    The Cold War hysteria affected domestic policies because conservatives could claim that progressive causes like labor, civil rights, women's rights, etc. were always part of a vast communist scheme to undermine the United States.  

  •  Awesome punch line (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExpatGirl

    I often joke that if I end up penniless it will be great because I'll feel young again, now you have me laughing aloud.

    The EU has a more complex and interdependent relationship with the Russian Federation than the USA, particularly in winter.

    So as the snow thaws, a window of opportunity to negotiate opens until about November.

    Modest Proposal for Geopolitical Freedom Fighters:

    Re-route the Keystone XL from Texas to Brussels.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 03:06:23 PM PST

  •  It's not that complicated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katiec

    but a lot of people think by analogy with previous experience, being unable to derive things from basic terms.

    A better analysis is that Russia grew into an empire under the Czars, subjugating non-Russian eastern Slavic and Baltic peoples to its west and Siberian, Turkic, and Caucasus peoples to its north, east, and south.

    Lenin and Stalin extended that empire as the European empires (German, Austro-Hungarian, Turkish, French, Italian, British, Spanish, and Portuguese) and Asian empires (Japan, sorta China) were some mix of defeated, broken up, or disintegrated in World Wars 1 and 2.  In the form of the USSR, Russia gained dominion over the western Slavic countries and then some in Europe and some parts of Asia.

    The United States organized a counteralliance out of the remains of the western European and Asian ones.  The Cold War resulted.  A couple of proxy wars were fought.  In 1989 the USSR's Agrarian/Industrial Era economy and political order failed and it lost control of western Slavic Europe.  In 1991 this extended, and the USSR itself broke up into more than a dozen countries- variously Baltic, eastern Slavic, Caucasus, and Central Asian.  Siberia and some other regions conquered by the Czars and Stalin remained incorporated into Russia.  During the 1990s all these countries went through a horror show of dealing with collapse and consolidation/modernization of their Agrarian Age and Industrial Age industries.  

    By 2005 there was economic recovery and basically the whole slew of western Slavic, Balkans, and Baltic countries had joined into western Europe's federation project, the EU, and its military alliance, NATO.

    But at the same time Russia hadn't been a complete slouch and recovered significantly.  Under Putin Russia became a petrostate, and using its size and wealth organized new if inherently weak alliances with its eastern Slavic neighbors (Belarus and Ukraine) and some Caucasus (Armenia) and Central Asian (Kazakhstan) ones.  It also formed an alliance of sorts with China, aka the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SHO).  

    The peaks of this reconsolidation have been Putin's ability to keep Lukashenko in power in Belarus, Yanukovich regaining power for the pro-Russian side in Ukraine, and inflicting a serious military and political defeat on Saakashvili's Georgia in 2008.  Also keeping Armenia an ally and raising the plausibility of a counter-EU confederacy centered on Moscow, aka Eurasian Union.  As the most up to date form of Russian hegemony sphere.

    The defeats of this policy are evident, too.  In 2009 the SCO went into crisis due to Hillary Clinton's successful efforts to form a containment of China to its east and south  The SCO strategic meeting in September 2009 to counter the US/EU containments was not a pleasant affair and Putin emerged probably the lesser partner in the relationship.  Clinton was hard to stop and got Burma out of Peking's hegemony sphere anyway.  China has since let North Korea carry out its tantrums and made the ugly fuss about those small islands just north of Taiwan with Japan.  But the Kabul-to-Manila-to-Tokyo containment has held.

    In 2010/11 Moldova's pro-Russian government fell and Moldova is now almost an EU member.  Moscow has, however, continued to prop up the breakaway Transnistria region as a counter.  

    The missile/anti-missile system argument of Russia with Poland has come and gone a few times.  Also the crushing of the pro-EU movement in Belarus largely headed by ethnic Poles.  And the various internal disturbances in Kaliningrad resisting Moscow's full grip on its affairs and poeple.  And the Belarussian asset selloffs to Russia to keep Lukashenko afloat.  It's all proxy disputes for power and military threats involving Russia, its ally Belarus, the Kaliningrad Enclave occupied by Russia, and Poland and the Baltic countries.  It has mostly illustrated that Kaliningrad and Belarus under Lukashenko are not necessarily reliable entities for Russian designs, Putin's exertion of power via them tenuous.

    For a time it seemed as if Belarus might be earlier than Ukraine to break with Moscow.  The success of the present uprising is somewhat surprising- Yanukovich's hold on power was thought to be quite a bit stronger, via ethnic Russian nationalists, than it has turned out to be.

    In any case, the math as Moscow sees it in reality is that the western, more agricultural, poorer, less Russian half of Ukraine has absconded with permanence.  Putin is under strong pressure to minimize losses, with Crimea one object to dispute possession of with pro-EU government(s) in Kiev and eastern Ukraine's majority Russian-identifying cities a second.

    But the overall trend since the maxing out of Russian hegemony in 1945 is in one direction.  In this argument I wouldn't bet against the EU long term.

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