A return of the Cold War?

 

The Cold War haunted many of us when we were young, whispering always about the possibility of nuclear exchange, sometimes, as in the Cuban Missile Crisis, shouting about it, and reminding us of another kind of life, of an oppressive, miserable slave-state existence some saw as justice. It seemed that it would last forever except that suddenly the Soviet Union crashed. The Cold War was gone.

Is it back again?

No, not yet and not exactly, but there is something very much like it knocking on the door, having arrived in part because of a strutting Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who recalls the glory that was empire, the grandeur that was military intimidation. He has invaded Ukraine in defiance of decency, international law and peace, will do heaven knows what next and quite likely feels that a virtual invitation to act this way had been issued by President Obama.

Obama is awake and worried now though his dreamy, submissive policies helped prompt aggression and he is still befuddled enough to have told Putin he is on the wrong side of history. That’s meaningless tripe that implies historical inevitability when we all know how even strong likelihoods can be easily undone.

The likelihood may have been shrinking tyranny, but you can betray such a possibility when you make warnings to Syria without meaning them or tell Poland to forget defensive missiles because Russia raised an objection. And what are these negotiations with Iran all about? Maybe they will conclude marvelously and Iran will give up its WMD ambitions, but it seems to me we dismantled some sanctions because some tigers vaguely hinted they might then change their stripes. The last time I looked, the tigers still had their stripes.

I do credit Obama for more effectiveness in the war on terrorism than I expected, but I think his foreign policy on the whole has been the kind of whimper Putin expects more of, figuring he can live with that, even thrive on that. Right now I suspect he is figuring Obama is more talk than walk and that Europe cares more about Russian oil and gas than Ukrainian democracy.

On the one hand, he may well be thinking, he can reach beyond Crimea for all of Ukraine and then reach elsewhere in reassembling a great deal of the Soviet bloc as it had been before. On the other, he can be Mr. Nice Guy, abandoning much of everything he has ever dreamed about in order to avoid unpleasant rhetoric, intimations of action that will never materialize and the possibilities that everyone will forget the nice impressions of the Sochi Olympics.

Instead, he must be made to see Russian poverty, isolation, insignificance and humiliation as consequences of too much bravado, and this means counter-policies made explicit and definite enough that he cannot doubt they will come his way if he goes further astray. This means a lot more than ejecting Russia from the G-8. It means, among many other things, major reductions in trade desperately needed to keep Russia kicking. Yes, the hurt could go more than one direction, but it has been noted there are methods of compensating, as in doing more to unleash our own energy boom to afford sales to Europe.

What must happen is for Obama to get and stay on the right side of analysis, understanding the point of some experts that the behavior of more countries than Russia is at stake here. Of course, the behavior of Russia alone matters greatly. While it might never be quite as much a threat as the old communistic Soviet Union, this corrupt, dictatorial, nuclear-armed regime could be a deterrent to all kinds of wondrous human developments while constantly antagonistic to American interests. It is not a given that nothing like the Cold War can ever come back.

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune. Readers may send him email at speaktojay@aol.com.

© 2014, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • A GOP ultimatum to Vlad

    With the party united, the odds are now at least even that the GOP will not only hold the House but also capture the Senate in November.

  • College cost not big problem for poor students

    To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting more kids from poor families into college, the key to moving up in an increasingly unequal society.

  • Torture is not a public relations problem

    The CIA is on a “charm offensive.”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category