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Why Moscow Desperately Wants a “New Cold War” – and Why There Isn’t and Won’t be One

Staunton, May 9 – Moscow commentators have been denouncing the West for launching “a new cold war” against Russia, and a large share of Western commentators have assumed that this is because the Russian leadership doesn’t want one. In fact, Moscow is desperate to have that the new-old paradigm be restored at least at the level of rhetoric for at least three reasons.

First of all, if Moscow can get people in Russia and the West to talk about a new cold war, the Kremlin will have succeeded in boosting its status from what it has been since 1991. During the cold war, the USSR was the other super power, certainly not equal to the West in most dimensions but often treated as if it were nevertheless. Moreover, if that becomes the dominant paradigm again, there will always be people in the West who will argue not that the West needs to promote its interests against Russia but that the only way forward is compromise. And that too works to the benefit of Moscow.

Second, the Putin regime is pleased to use of the idea of a new cold war domestically to divert attention from its own disastrous economic policies and worsening demographic situation at home and to provide a justification for increasing repression. If as the new cold war paradigm suggests, Russia is a “besieged fortress,” few Russians can or will object to the kind of steps the the Kremlin says are necessary to defend them and their country. And if the West can be convinced to use the cold war paradigm, so much the better, because Moscow propagandists will then as they are already doing quote Western officials and commentators as evidence that the West has launched the cold war against Russia.

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