Friday, July 28, 2017

There's No Party Like a Cold War Party

Russia is retaliating for American sanctions by limiting the staff and travel and such of American diplomats in Moscow.  So I tweeted the title to this post, so it raises the question: is this really a cold war?

Similarities to the good old days (ok, bad old days for most, good for a cranky troll):
  • NATO is hip again!  The gnashing of teeth about whether it should exist is mostly over, except in Trump's mind (and Putin's).
  • We have tripwires and nuclear threats.
  • We have the aforementioned tit-for-tat.
  • Proxy wars--Syria is very familiar, if more complex than the old proxy wars.
  • Planes buzzing planes and ships.
What is different?
  • The Russia-US relationship is not the axis upon which the world turns.  Heaps of stuff going outside of US-Russia.
  • China is more powerful, more relevant than Russia in most areas other than election meddling.
  • Russia's conventional threat is only to the Baltics (and maybe Sweden) and not for Germany/France, which leads to not quite as much effort by the West Europeans.
  • Whatever North Korea does, it is not guided by/influenced/etc by Russia.
  • Most of the clusterfuck in the Mideast is not driven by Russia.  Nope, it is mostly Shia v. Sunni, Saudi Arabia vs Iran.  
  • The biggest threat to the world is not nuclear war between the US and Russia but climate change.
 I could go on with each list.  That it is cold war-ish with Russia does mean that some plays in the old cold war playbook are relevant again--tripwires and extended deterrence and sanctions. But it is not cold war enough that the US can focus on Russia or see the world through the lens of conflict with Russia.  Oh, and during the Cold War, the White House was not occupied with the Soviet Union's best pal.  Ah, the mole hunters of the past would be aghast at the Oval Office being occupied by a fellow traveler/useful idiot/whatever Trump is.

When applying analogies, one must remember what pieces of the old dynamics apply and which ones don't.  Cold war-ish is not cold war.  But it is also not all unicorns, rainbows and happiness.

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