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The Cold War Report January 26, 2008
Russia and the West in the Year of the Rat
By Alexander Zaitchik Browse author Email
Page 2 of 3

The year opens with bilateral talks in full swing between Washington and Prague/Warsaw. If it seemed like the Czechs and Poles were getting cold feet last year when they put the brakes on negotiations, they weren't. Both governments were just playing hardball to wring everything they could out of Uncle Sam in exchange for becoming targets for midrange Russia nukes. It looks like Poland was holding out for its own Patriot battery or THAAD system; the Czechs just wanted a bigger cut of the action for local contractors. But final deals are around the corner. All eyes on NATO's Bucharest summit in April to see how far Washington has been able to drag Old Europe along for the ride.

John McCain

As long as McCain's in the race, expect more jabs at the Kremlin. The funny thing is that the senator from Arizona isn't even a new cold warrior, he's 1.0, the real thing: a Commie-cursing Curtis Lemay-era bred Eagle Scout who still thinks Gorbachev has something up his sleeve and who still refers to "Czechoslovakia.&quot. McCain may have put his Vietnam demons to rest, but the old man still has a Russia bug up his ass the size of a bacci ball. In a GOP debate in Orlando, McCain warned that Moscow was causing "severe" problems for the U.S. and promised "tough times ahead." If the Bush-Putin era is replaced by a McCain-Medvedev match-up, it's real easy to imagine things getting off on the wrong foot and staying there.

The Arctic Scramble

The weirdest front to open up last year in the new cold war. Everyone knew there was hard-to-get oil up there, but before anyone understood what was happening, Vladimir Gruzdev was planting a titanium Russian flag on the Arctic floor and Canada was talking tough for the first time since the Mad Cow beef bans. Who knew Denmark even had a Navy? The five Arctic nations are all increasing their military presence in the area despite the fact that the nobody knows how to handle the legal, geological, or environmental questions raised by competing claims. This is a multi-generational slow-burner, so don't expect much Arctic action in '08 besides more melting. As they say, Developing...

The British Council Closings

You can sprinkle polonium in their Earl Grey, but don't fuck with their British Councils. By closing the St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg Councils on charges of links to MI6, Moscow is playing with fire. The lavishly funded and smartly designed educational resource centers are Britain's most important weapons in their rearguard cultural battle for relevance on Planet Hollywood. Forget Litvinenko. Where are Russian teens going to find week-old copies of the Guardian-on-a-stick and DVD's of Sense And Sensibility? Who will put a stop to the madness?

Ukraine, Georgia, NATO

How far will the open-door policy go in '08? January opened with Ukraine's Foreign Minister traveling to Brussels to personally hand in a formal request to join NATO's Membership Action Plan. Kiev appears intent on catching up with Georgia on the road to full membership, even if only 20 percent of Ukrainians think it's a good idea. Will this be the year NATO completely loses its mind and takes in Ukraine and Georgia? Once more, all eyes on Bucharest this April.

William Kristol

Ever since William Safire retired, there hasn't been any real heartfelt Russia-bashing on the New York Times op-ed page. There's been some serious hand wringing and some half-hearted expressions of concern, but no high-caliber bear hunting. That should change with the arrival of William Kristol, who the Times has signed to a one-year contract. Kristol is a founder of the Project for the New American Century and doesn't have a lot of patience for countries with interests that don't align with Washington's and the weapons and will to pursue them. His Weekly Standard has outsourced the new cold war drumbeat to a preening minicon freelancer named Michael Weiss, who seems very worried about the state of Russia but does not seem to have ever visited the country beyond the Russian History section at the Strand. It's hard to imagine David Brooks getting worked up over anything except his next book advance, so expect Kristol to get tough with Russia in the Times. But the Grey Lady still won't be able to compete with the Pravda on the Potomac, the New England Patriots of new cold war hysterics.

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Alexander Zaitchik is an editor at The eXile. Email him at
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