A new cold war?

Nonsense, says Simon Jenkins, in a good column. Excerpt:

Above all, back comes the maxim, know your enemy, in this case understand Russia. Putin’s revival of the oldest paranoia in his nation’s history, of continental encirclement, was bound to follow defeat in the cold war. The US’s breach of understandings reached in the 1990s between Russia and an enlarged Nato by proposing to locate military installations in Poland and the Czech Republic was as provocative and militarily useless as could be imagined. Russia’s “retargeting” of its missiles and withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty were comparatively mild responses. It is not surprising that Putin should also counter with his energy weapon. Hence his pipeline deal with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and Gazprom’s partnership with France and Italy rather than the US or Britain.

Putin regards London, with some justice, as like pre-Castro Havana, an open city awash in the laundered loot of Yeltsin’s privatisations, draining the new Russia of investment and talent and giving refuge to people he sees as tax-dodgers and thieves. This he will have to lump, and perhaps make Moscow a less vulgar and dangerous place in which young Russians can make an honest rouble. But when someone in his apparat orders the killing of an emigre in a London restaurant, the British government cannot just ignore it.

Such low-key tit-for-tat “bad relations” can presumably continue indefinitely, since it is hard to see how they might degenerate to military confrontation. Besides, there will soon be new rulers in Moscow and Washington -as there is a new and enigmatic one in London. A surface hostility can be stable, if that is what the pride and prejudice of the parties require for their internal political status. Or it can be superseded by a realisation of some shared purpose…