AT the height of the Cold War, both sides indulged in a regular exchange of rhetoric, characterising each other in less than flattering terms. The capitalist West termed the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’ leading a godless Eastern bloc, while the communists berated the ‘decadent, imperialist’ West. The verbal exchanges were of course apart from the much more dangerous nuclear posturing and proxy wars across the planet. Now, it seems the ghosts of the Cold War have been revived as Russia and its Western nemeses indulge in a fresh bout of verbal jousting. Delivering a major policy speech in Moscow recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stern warning to the West, telling it not to cross a “red line”, adding that Russia’s response would be “asymmetrical, rapid and harsh”. Last month, US President Joe Biden had, in rather tough fashion, called Mr Putin, a “killer”, to which the Russian leader acerbically replied: “it takes one to know one.”
There are numerous global hotspots where Russia and the Western bloc’s policies are diametrically opposed. These include Ukraine, Belarus and Syria, to name a few. In the post-Soviet period Russia has been alarmed by Nato’s expansion in the former Eastern bloc countries, which it considers part of its ‘near abroad’. On the other hand, the US-led West has been critical of a resurgent Russia throwing its military weight around in places such as Crimea and Syria. Up till recently the situation in Ukraine remained tense, as Moscow had amassed a large number of troops near the former Soviet republic. Both camps need to realise that Cold War-era posturing and a combative relationship do not bode well for global peace. The US must come to terms with the fact that Russia is a sovereign power and must be handled with respect. Moscow, on the other hand, should also communicate to its European neighbours as well as Washington that all outstanding issues should be resolved through diplomacy instead of sabre-rattling.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2021