The Return of the Cold War
Putin has threatened to withdraw from the arms control treaty that dismantled the Cold War in response to US plans to install missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. Webloggin traces the history of the crisis and asks whether we are on the verge of a new Cold War. Here's the news from the Telegraph:
Russia is to withdraw from Europe's key arms control treaty in response to United States plans to install missile defence systems in Eastern Europe, Vladimir Putin announced yesterday.
The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which was signed in the dying months of the Cold War, is regarded as the cornerstone of stability in Europe. It places limits on the number of conventional weapons and foreign forces that can be deployed among member nations.
In the first indication that the United States was losing patience with Moscow's intransigence on the issue, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, yesterday described Russia's fears as "ludicrous". "The Russians have thousands of warheads," she told a press conference in Oslo prior to a Nato meeting. "The idea that somehow you can stop the Russian strategic nuclear deterrent with a few interceptors just doesn't make sense."
Mr Putin said he had decided to declare a moratorium on an updated version of the treaty because Nato powers had failed to ratify it. The United States and its Nato allies have said they would not ratify the treaty until Russia withdrew its troops from Moscow-backed breakaway republics in Georgia and Moldova - an argument the Kremlin dismisses as a pretext to allow Washington to boost its military presence in eastern Europe.
The missile defense shield was intended primarily to defend Europe against a limited nuclear attack from emerging powers like Iran. That Vladimir Putin has chosen to link a defense against the Iranian threat with the arms control agreemnts which spelled the end of the Cold War means he is giving Europe a choice between restarting the tension with Moscow or preventing Iran from becoming a new nuclear power. The West can have one or the other, but not both.
This amounts to an objective alliance between Moscow and Teheran. A new Cold War has started with a new lineup. Perhaps it had already begun earlier had the West but the wit to sense it. With the mood in Congress being what it is, it is entirely possible that the Democrats will urge the President to abandon the plans for the missile defense of Europe, effectively giving Iran the power of blackmail over an already terrified and cowed Continent. Having acquired the taste to withdraw, why not withdraw further? If backward is good, further backward is even better. The enemy goes from strength to strength and the Western leadership remains stuck on a circular track in a virtual Munich.