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Analysis: A Cold War Redux?

Council on Foreign Relations

February 14, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Warmer-than-usual weather in Russia this winter has had little effect on the Kremlin’s chilly view of America. President Vladimir Putin’s diatribe at a weekend security conference in Munich starkly outlined his objections to U.S. foreign policy. He claims Washington’s “hyper use of military force” is “plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” He shudders at the notion of an anti-ballistic missile shield based in Russia’s backyard and lambastes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an antediluvian alliance whose intended target is Russia, not the rogue threats alluded to in its official communiqués.

Talk of a new Cold War is in the air, though who bears the blame remains unclear. To be sure, some commentators are asking: Does Putin have a point? “What Putin says is not entirely crazy,” says Marshall Goldman of Harvard University in this new Backgrounder. “A very large number of Democrats in the United States and traditional U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere would agree with much of Putin’s critique of the Bush administration,” longtime foreign policy observer Martin Walker of UPI points out. Russians appear to share their president's concerns. Polls show anti-Americanism on the rise in Russia. “Putin's comments may be jarring to Americans, but they express a bitterness that's widespread here,” writes the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. “His generation of Russians grew up in a country that claimed the status of ‘superpower,’ and they don't like being taken for granted.”

Others say Putin’s bluster smacks of hypocrisy, particularly his swipes at Washington for jumpstarting a new arms race. “This from the largest exporter of arms (LAT) to the developing world, with clients that include such charmers as Syria and Venezuela,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot.

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