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The New Cold War by Edward Lucas

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Feb 08, 01:34 PM

new_cold_war203x152.jpgJournalist Edward Lucas claims that Russia has started a new Cold War - and the West is losing it because it is unwilling to confront the new threat.

Edward Lucas speaks to Jeremy Paxman on 12 February.

Extract from:

The New Cold War
How the Kremlin Menaces both Russia and the West
by Edward Lucas
Published by Bloomsbury at £18.99

Vladimir Putin wants to build up the Kremlin’s influence not only on the West, but also in the West. The growing business lobby tied to Russia represents a powerful fifth column of a kind unseen during the last Cold War. Once it was communist trade unions that undermined the West at the Kremlin’s behest. Now it is pro-Kremlin bankers and politicians who betray their countries for thirty silver roubles.

Russia is still too weak militarily and economically, and too dependent on the outside world, to use brute force. Other tactics are just as effective.

Chiefly, it can menace and subvert the weaker and smaller countries in the ex-Soviet neighbourhood. For them, Russia is like an aggressive man on crutches - no threat to the able-bodied, but still a menacing bully for someone in a wheelchair.

It uses the Soviet Union’s most powerful legacy, the monopoly hold on gas and oil pipelines running from east to west, to blackmail and bribe its former satellite countries. In response, the West not only fails to support its allies, but is also succumbing to pressure itself.

The old Cold War imposed a demanding regime of mental and moral toughness on the countries of Western Europe: they knew that if they did not hang together they would hang separately.


Now the Kremlin’s central tactic, of ‘divide and rule’, has an almost free run. During the old Cold War, no NATO member would have considered doing private deals with the Kremlin. In the New Cold War, such deals are commonplace. Remembering the grim grey days of the past is hard.

Memories of Russia now are shaped by the optimism that surrounded the end of the Cold War, not the realism of the previous four decades.

Those old reflexes would be useful now. The Soviet way of life was a combination of economic backwardness, plus repression at home and abroad.

'A dark shadow'

That was a hard sell. Now the Kremlin has stopped wasting time, money and people in trying to make a flawed economic system work, and in pursuing an unworkably utopian political idea. Instead it has adopted the trappings of a Western system - laws, elections and private property, to conceal a lawless, brutal and greedy reality. That is not only a problem for Russians.

The ideological clash between Russia and the West has changed, but not disappeared. Instead of an explicit argument between Marxist-Leninists and the supporters of welfare capitalism, both sides seem to endorse the same capitalist model.

The difference between Russian and Western models of capitalism can be deceptive, for respect for the law is so central to the Western approach to life that many of those who benefit from the security and predictability that it brings hardly think about it. But the ideological conflict of the New Cold War is between lawless Russian nationalism and law-governed Western multilateralism.

In short: the West is losing the New Cold War, while having barely noticed that it has started. Mr Putin and his Kremlin allies have seized power in Russia, cast a dark shadow over the eastern half of the continent, and established formidable bridgeheads in the main Western countries. And the willingness to resist looks alarmingly feeble.

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With respect to Mr Lucas, this seems a bit too far-fetched.

The original cold war was quite different:

- it was about the serious possibility of a nuclear war breaking out (i.e Cuban missile crisis).
Where is the argument that makes something like a Cuban missile crisis as likely to occur now as during the real cold war between Russua and the west.

- Russia then was a superpower (and a military superpower). Russia was geared towards strong armaments / military (similar to last point).

- Russia was at the other end of the political spectrum (Communism) from the west (with a violent history attached to Russia's political system).
Like us in Western Europe (well, with big exception: Iraq), Russians are tired of violence and war. They want peace and prosperity, instead. They have seen it work in Western Europe, America, and elsewhere, and want it for themselves, too.

Communism is dead (history has proven). It proved to be a failure (yes, it continus in China, but things there are changing). Most ordinary people in Russia now embrace Western democracy. There are challenges, yes. But there isn't anything inherent about the Russian people that make it impossible for them to adopt Western democracy.

- Russia was relatively ignorant of the West compared to now. Now, they know, that Western life isn't as bad as they were led to believe when growing up under Communism and what their Communist educators had taught them.

Yes there are big teething problems but not the same problems / threats to Western Europe / America of the original cold war (?)


So now it’s a new cold war we must deal with? The greater reality is, we have a world “full” of excitable too-clever-by-half animals that we term humans, evolved to live a hard, fundamental life (i.e. doing primary tasks to stay alive and reproduce) now virtually all media-linked and CocaCola/Macdonalds savvy, who are daily less connected with the Earth and consequently more mad. Warm up the cold war and you will have a hot one to replace it; and while you achieve that another billion lunatics will be swarming the planet. World leaders tend to be the maddest (do you need names?) because they distil from unconducive governmental processes that a sleepwalking populace allows to endure. It is not cold war that should worry us but cold reason. Each new birth is now regarded, PRIMARILY, as a unit of work and income – not of BEING - BEING WHOLE. Just how cold is that?

  • 3.
  • At 06:04 PM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • Amadu Barrie wrote:

Absolute nonsense. Whenever a person(Castro, Chavez, Khadafy etc)a nation Cuba, Irak, Iran etc)fails to dance at the rythm of he, she, it, is branded as against the west.

  • 4.
  • At 09:00 PM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • Adrienne wrote:

Eamon (#1) Nuclear Pakistan (mean IQ =81) has a larger population than Russia, so does Bangladesh (81) and Nigeria (low 70s). China is much smarter and has close to 10x the population of Russia, and under its Stalinism (which Russia abandoned in 1953) China's doing very well at the expense of the free-market loving capitalists who are busy destructuring themselves in pursuit of 'freedom' ;-). What isn't doing so well at all is the USA and the EU, which have given away their manufacturing base to China etc and continue to destroy themselves INSIDIOUSLY through poor attention to their demographics. The Shanghai Group doesn't need nuclear weapons and all the talk about economic/energy warfare is just facile, EDF is doing the same, and that's French (who until the Neo-Con Sarkozy have managed to keep their nationalised services). As Barrie implies, it's New lefty chameleon anarcho-capitalist Trots like him which everyone should be worried about (but aren't, they voted Blair's lot in three times thinking it was Labour rather than Militant).

Barrie :-)

Amadu (#3) You pre-empted me ;-).

  • 5.
  • At 11:17 PM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • Eric Gheyskens wrote:

In the discussion about "The New Cold War by Edward Lucas" it was stated that gas could only be transported through pipelines (which are controlled by Russia).

To the contrary, gas is also shipped, f.e. Belgium has been buying gas from N.-Africa for a few decades now; it is being liquified and then shipped over to a special terminal !

So, Russia has NO overall control.

kind regards,



  • 6.
  • At 11:27 PM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • Victoria wrote:

I am Russian, and Lucas speaks nonsense.
I can not believe people actually listening to him. I lived in Russia and I would vote for Putin anytime, not because there is no democracy and I was brainwashed, but because he is the right person for a job.

  • 7.
  • At 01:16 AM on 13 Feb 2008,
  • Vasily wrote:

I can't agree with Victoria that Mr. Lucas speaks nonsense. It does make sense for too many people in the West to frame Russians as aliens. To admit that Russians are not less European than, well, say newly adopted Polish or, well, than going to be embraced Romanians, to admit this simple truth means a bit like showing a love or respect to somebody whom you have treated as a prostitute for too long. So let the girl give us what she has (gas and oil) for our money, we won't marry her or let her in our home for more than an hour - she can steal something, after all. Use her but keep her at a distance, that's the general formula. Things like dishonest parliament or presidential elections are just that woman's own dirty affairs - leave her with her fate, and keep your gate locked. We understand, Mr. Lucas, thank you indeed for this lesson.

  • 8.
  • At 08:18 AM on 13 Feb 2008,
  • Stephen Felce wrote:

Playing a tough game is what gave Russia its power during the cold war and that remains the case today. Putin is a bully but the Russian people clearly like it that way. He is popular there and would be returned to power even in a fair election.

Just as with sub-prime in the US banking system and those who took it up in Europe, too much short-sighted risk is taken. The resulting pain over Russian gas will get worse and last a long time as our own resources dwindle. It is in Russia's interest to exploit every weakness among the old allies and we make that easy for them by relying on them so heavily.

We should not be creating this dependency so heavily or allowing foreign companies to take over key industries any more than we have to, even among our best friends.

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