Putin’s Valdai/Iron Curtain Speech Confirmed the Worst Expectations

Vladimir Putin’s speech at the Valdai Club in Sochi was of a conceptual nature. It was carefully thought out with respect to the fundamental aspects of Russia’s current relations with the West. Putin delivered his entire lineup of arguments for his supporters and propagandists. Chief among them: Russia has done everything right. And the U.S. is doing whatever it wants in the world, with a ton of examples: from Iraq to Libya, from Kosovo to Ukraine, from Syria to the Islamic State.

The characterization of Yanukovych’s flight as the result of a coup allegedly organized in the West provides grounds for Ukraine’s territorial disintegration. Coups happen in the world, of course, but they don’t give an automatic right to repudiate intergovernmental agreements and commitments.

Putin’s characterization of U.S. foreign policy as unprofessional leaves no doubt that there is no reason to expect Russia to have any serious intentions of normalizing relations either with the U.S. or with the West in the foreseeable future. This was Putin’s own kind of “Iron Curtain” speech, signifying a determination to stand up to the evil of the West and to the evil inspired by those in Washington who are behind all the world’s ills. The West and the U.S., having – for their part, at the level of leaders, ministers, senators and deputies – placed threats emanating from Russia on par with Ebola and Islamic extremism, have in effect declared Russia and its leaders a phenomenon that is alien and hostile to the modern world. The sanctions merely underscore each parties’ mutual resolve to insist on being right, to accept deprivation and sacrifice. NATO’s military doctrines are being reviewed with the aim of moving the alliance’s military capabilities right up to Russia’s borders.

My analysis of recent statements and decisions affords the following conclusion: The political elite of the United States and Russia today really want a cold war. It is in many ways beneficial, as it establishes a predetermination of the future for the most influential interest groups on both sides of the Atlantic. Or, as it was once put, “from Vancouver to Vladivostok.” The military-industrial complex is cheering. The impending global arms race will drain more than one economy.

A sentence from a brilliant tale by Evelyn Waugh that characterizes the psychological nuance of what is happening keeps going around in my head: “John Verney married Elizabeth in 1938, but it was not until the winter of 1945 that he came to hate her steadily and fiercely.” By the look of things, politics often resembles life.

So for me, it is no longer a question of whether we are moving toward a cold war. A war is already actively underway on many fronts. There will be even more fronts, unfortunately.

I wonder who will win out this time — China, as always?

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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